It’s about time for three-child policy, say experts

Three’s company: A boy sitting on a chair amongst sculptures at a shopping mall on International Children’s Day in Beijing a day before China announced it would allow couples to have three children. — AFP

BEIJING: China’s universal three-child policy is expected to be a timely and effective step to arrest the decline in the nation’s birthrate and address the challenge of a rapidly ageing population, officials and demographers said.

They also called for stronger and more comprehensive support measures to encourage couples to have more children and reduce the burden of rearing children.

The Communist Party of China said during a key meeting on Monday that all couples will be allowed to have up to three children, replacing the universal second-child policy that took effect in early 2016. When the three-child policy will take effect has not yet been disclosed.

In a statement, the National Health Commission said that implementing the three-child policy, as well as relevant support measures, will “maximise the proactive role of the population in economic and social development”.

The new policy is also a sign of the nation taking the initiative to “cope with the risk of a decreasing fertility level and solve population problems in a comprehensive manner”, the commission said.

Lu Jiehua, a population studies professor at Peking University, said, “The top factor behind easing family planning now is the low fertility rate and the low ratio of children and teenagers in the total population.”

China’s annual number of newborns has fallen for four consecutive years to an estimated 12 million in 2020. The country’s total fertility rate – the average number of children born to each woman – stood at 1.3 last year, below the rate of 2.1 that would maintain a stable population, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The declining birthrate has also brought a sharp rise in the proportion of the population age 60 or above, rising from 10.3% to 18.7% in the past decade. The population of those 14 or younger dropped from about 23% to 18% during the same period.

“The trend of a rapidly ageing population and the resulting shrinking workforce have sent us a reminder that if the three-child policy is not implemented in a timely manner, we might miss a favourable opportunity to complete the population restructuring, ” Lu said. — China Daily/ANN

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