Low fertility rates sparked economic concerns on Tuesday (May 11) when the Communist Party’s National Bureau of Statistics released key data from the 7th national census, but it was not the main concern of young people, most of whom are squeamish about having children amid supersized life pressures.
The latest Communist Party census data show Chinese mothers gave birth to 12 million babies last year, down from 14.65 million in 2019, an 18 percent year-on-year decline that continues to fall to a nearly 60-year low, as a dwindling workforce fears it will not be able to support a growing number of elderly people.
Liang Jianzhang, a research professor of economics at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management and founder of Ctrip, proposed an incentive in a video posted on his Weibo channel: an incentive of 1 million yuan for having a child, or spending 10 percent of GDP, would raise the current low birth rate of 1.3 to a replacement level of 2.1.
Liang said he has talked to many young people and that if it were just a few million yuan, it would essentially do nothing to encourage people to have more children.
Indeed, under China’s current public welfare conditions, most young people believe that having children would be a significant financial burden, and that having fewer or no children is necessary to maintain quality of life.
Zhang Jie, a 31-year-old salesman at a small private trading company in Guangzhou who has been separated from his girlfriend for four years, told the South China Morning Post, “To be honest, I don’t want to fall in love, I don’t want to get married, and I don’t want to have children. For the working class, raising a child in the city is simply becoming more and more unaffordable.”
According to a 2019 consumer report released by Tmall.com, China’s largest consumer e-commerce platform, consumer spending related to raising children increased by 60 percent among Chinese parents aged 25 or younger from 2016 to 2019.
The 2017 Cost of Schooling report released by Sina Education says that education spending accounts for an average of 26% of annual household income at the preschool level, 21% at the primary and secondary school levels, and 29% at the university level.
In addition, a 2019 survey by HSBC revealed that the debt-to-income ratio for young Chinese born in the 1990s has reached a staggering 1,850 percent.
The soaring cost of raising children, combined with the high proportion of personal debt, makes Chinese born after 1990 the least willing to marry and have children compared to previous generations.
In their county, where kindergarten tuition costs between 5,000 and 10,000 yuan a year, migrant parents may have to pay up to 15,000 yuan a year for the education of each child left behind, said Ms. Yu, 21, of Uyang County, Henan Province. She says she is raising up to two children.
Ms. Peng, who is in her early 30s in Shenzhen, said most of her friends and classmates are still single and living in first-tier cities with mortgages that exceed most of their income and are on a 30-year repayment cycle. Each also has various types of debt, such as credit cards and online consumer loans. “Our willingness to have children is almost zero,” she said.
Dr. Huang Wenzheng, an invited senior researcher at the Globalization Think Tank (CCG), said that the whole society must be mobilized to change young people’s perception of childbirth.
Netizen “the family has a gold mountain white” hit the nail on the head: “Now couples do not have children or do not want two children, because the cost of housing, education, living costs, pension costs, medical costs are too high, really want people to give birth, to solve these livelihood problems. ”