XIAO Shao is the mother of a six-year-old boy. Like many young married couples in China, she and her husband have been under tremendous pressure from their parents to have another baby after the government relaxed its family planning policy and allowed couples to have a second child.
But Xiao shook her head firmly.
“I’m having enough headache with just one,” said the 32-year-old event planning officer.
She is among the many young women in China, particularly working mothers in the cities, who are not willing to have more children due to financial and time constraints, among other reasons.
“I have fulfilled my obligation by giving birth to a son and that’s it, no more babies from me,” I overheard one mother saying to her friend in a cafe recently.
I did not mean to eavesdrop but the Chinese usually talk very loudly.
This was not the first time I’ve heard people complaining about “parents’ dilemma”.
Just last week, two journalists spontaneously said “No!” when I asked if they planned to have a second child.
Both cited reasons like not having enough time and energy for two juniors. They were also concerned over the high cost of living, healthcare and education.
Last Monday, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released shocking data: China’s population growth rate has hit the lowest level in decades.
China’s birth rate recorded a drop of two million, with 15.23 million babies born in 2018 compared to 17.23 million in 2017 and 17.86 million in 2016.
It marked the second consecutive decrease since the second child policy came into effect three years ago as Beijing strove to counter problems like ageing and a dwindling workforce in the future.
The NBS also announced that the population growth rate for last year was recorded at 3.81%, the slowest since 1961.
“One of the main factors is the shrinking number of fertile women (15 to 49 years old),” said its Population and Employment Statistics Department chief, Li Xiru.
He projected that the birth rate would decrease further in the years ahead.
Even so, he said, the nation would still see a steady population growth with newborns outnumbering the deaths.
The number of deaths last year was 9.93 million.
As of late December 2018, China’s population stood at 1.395 billion, an increase of 5.3 million from 2017.
Males (51.13%) outnumbered the females by 31.64 million.
The working age group (between 16 and 59 years old) made up 64.3% (over 897 million heads) of the population.
“Compared to the year before, this group of people has declined by 0.6% (4.7 million) and the senior community of those 65 and above increased by 0.5% (8.27 million) in 2018.
“The speed of population ageing continues to rise,” added Li.
The NBS data sparked concerns about labour shortage in the future and the potential negative impact on the nation’s economy.
Li, however, remains quite optimistic.
Although the number of working-age people fell for the seventh consecutive year, the nation still has a large workforce of nearly 900 million, with 789 million of them in employment, he said.
But he conceded that the shrinking working-age group and the growing golden-age community would pose challenges to economic development.
An online survey on social mentality found that a lack of family support and a decrease in career prospects are among the reasons women held back from having a second child, reported China Daily.
The survey, conducted by the Centre for Communication and State Governance Research and the Centre for Social Governance Research at Fudan University, was based on 275 million randomly collected posts from the Internet.
Analyses of the posts discovered that mothers were concerned over their children’s health and whether they would receive sufficient support from their husbands if they decided to have another baby.
It also found that most bloggers agreed that women wished men would take more responsibility in caring for their children.
Meanwhile, China celebrated the arrival of its first baby born from a transplanted womb on Jan 20.
Weighing 2kg, the baby boy is in good health, said doctors from Xijing Hospital in Xi’an, in northwest Shaanxi province.
His mother Yang Hua, 26, was born without a uterus but has ovaries.
She underwent a uterine transplant, receiving a womb donated by her mother, now 47, in 2015. It was the first uterine transplant conducted on a woman in China.
This baby boy is the world’s 14th to be born from a transplanted womb, reported China’s national news agency Xinhua.
There are about one million women in China suffering from uterine infertility.