'Two is too much trouble': will China's parents rush to have more children?

'Two is too much trouble': will China's parents rush to have more children?News that China is dropping its one-child policy is greeted with elation at Beijing’s maternity hospital, but some fear the cost of a second baby is too much.

Even before the news that China was scrapping its one-child policy, doctors at the Beijing obstetrics and gynaecology hospital were bracing themselves for a busy 2016.

Next year is the Year of the Monkey – an auspicious time for Chinese families to have children – and for months couples have been booking beds at the capital’s largest maternity ward.

That baby boom is now set to swell after China’s Communist party leaders announced a nationwide “two-child policy” for all married couples.

“I want at least two,” enthused a 27-year-old woman who was at the Beijing obstetrics and gynaecology hospital (Bogh) on Friday morning and asked to be named only as Ms Yan. “Only children feel very lonely.”

Following Beijing’s historic decision, some jubilant women took to social media to declare they would immediate try for another baby.

“I’m so thrilled that I can legally have a second child,” one wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter.

Li Ze and his wife Jia Meijian, both 26, who were at the Bogh on Friday, said they also hoped to take advantage of this week’s policy change by having two children.
'Two is too much trouble': will China's parents rush to have more children?

“I think it is a good thing that they have decided to let all couples have two children now,” said Li, who lives with his wife in the city of Baoding in Hebei province and had come with her to Beijing for a check-up.

“Chinese society is ageing very quickly. This will be good for China’s development.”

Yet for all the enthusiasm on show at the maternity hospital, Wang Feng, a sociologist and demographic expert from the University of California, Irvine, said any baby boom would likely be short-lived – if it happened at all.

Wang said Beijing’s decision to abandon a 35-year-old policy that had become a political liability showed “courage and wisdom”.

But he predicted it would do almost nothing to boost China’s low fertility rate, which experts put at between 1.2 and 1.5 children per woman.

Chinese couples no longer had small families because of draconian family planning rules but because of social and economic factors such as the cost of urban life and education and uncertainty in the job market, Wang said: “The low fertility rate is here to stay.”

Zhang Suli, 32, is a case in point. She gave birth to her first child – a baby boy nicknamed Xiaobiao – 40 days ago at the Bogh.

Under China’s new regulations, Xiaobiao could legally have a brother or sister without his parents having to pay a hefty fine. But Zhang said she had no plans for a second child.

“There’s too much pressure. Raising a kid in Beijing is too expensive,” she explained as she waited with her mother in the maternity hospital’s packed waiting room.

Wang said many urban Chinese couples felt the same.

“It is extraordinarily expensive [to raise a child in places such as Beijing or Shanghai]. The cost of housing is among the highest in the world, the commuting, the childcare facilities, all this combined [means] these cities are not conducive to high fertility,” he said.

Wang said rural families, who were fighting to improve the quality of their own lives, were also unlikely to want larger families. “Having children drags them down,” he said.

China’s state-controlled media painted the Communist party’s decision as a triumph for would-be parents.

“We knew that the one-child policy would be abandoned at some point, but we never thought it would come so soon,” a newlywed named only as Ms Wang was quoted as saying by Xinhua, China’s official news agency. “It’s come in time for us!”

Fancy Chen, a 35-year-old mother of two boys, aged one and four, also described the move as a victory, particularly for women of her generation who were running out of time to have a second child.

Chen – whose sons are nicknamed “Big Mao” and “Mao Two” - took advantage of a partial relaxation of family planning rules in 2013 that allowed parents who were both only children to have a second child.

“I think it is good news. More families can have a second baby. Two kids is very good in China,” said Chen, who was born in 1980, the year the one-child policy was introduced, and therefore restricted to a life without siblings.

As an only child, Chen said she knew only too well the pressures of having to care for her elderly parents alone. “Last month my mum went to the hospital and my son got a fever. I didn’t know whether to stay at the hospital or with him,” she said. “It’s very tough for me. So if we are able to have two kids we should, I think.”
'Two is too much trouble': will China's parents rush to have more children?

But a cartoon in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post on Friday reflected the widespread reluctance to have more than one child. “They’re dropping the one-child policy,” a mother, holding a bawling child, tells her husband in the picture. “I hope that’s on a voluntary basis,” he replies.

Wang said it was possible that couples in medium and small-sized cities, where the cost of living was much lower, would take advantage of the two-child policy.

Li Ze said that while many did not have the means to raise a child in Beijing, in his hometown of Baoding, a mid-sized industrial city, things were more affordable. “It would probably cost about 500,000 yuan (£51,500) there to raise a child until the age of 18,” he said.

“In Beijing it would be 800,000 or a million,” his wife said. “Too expensive.”

Stuart Gietel-Basten, an Oxford University demographer, predicted that within a decade Beijing might introduce “pro-natalist” policies as it sought to avert a demographic crisis by offering incentives for couples to have more children.

But Wang said the Communist party was probably still grappling with how to deal with the millions of people who had suffered human rights abuses such as forced sterilisations or abortions because of the one-child policy. “These are the more urgent issues,” he said.

Baby-related stocks reportedly surged on Friday following the demise of the much-loathed policy. One report suggested the change could bring about six million new births each year, creating a market worth 353 billion yuan (£36.4bn).

But in the baby boutiques surrounding Beijing’s largest maternity hospital, shop managers were cautious.

“I don’t think it will make a huge difference,” said Wang Haiyan, who sells clothing for expectant mothers.

“These days people don’t want to have two children,” said the shopkeeper next door, who gave her name only as Ms Lu. “It’s too expensive. People think it is too much trouble.”
See also:
Leave a comment
  • Latest
  • Read
  • Commented
Calendar Content
«    Июль 2020    »