The government of China, the world’s most populous country, has recently been suffering from “depopulation anxiety”, following the example of King Goujian of Yue at the end of the Spring and Autumn Period, who had a policy of “ten years of childbirth and ten years of gathering and nurturing”, and finally announced on the eve of June 1 that it would release The “three children” were teased as the “best Children’s Day gift”. However, in the social atmosphere that young people have to do “lying flat people”, civil opinion is not appreciated.
Family education investment: high investment, low return
Since 1988, when I published my first research book, Population: China’s Hanging Sword, the issue of population and population policy has been on my mind. Given the reality of China, I believe that encouraging three children is a faint and wrong move by the Chinese government, which ignores the national situation. After the abolition of the one-child policy, the government should promptly transform government-controlled family planning into family-determined social birth control and return the reproductive decision-making power to families.
Raising children requires decent living conditions and affordable education costs. For the post-80s and post-90s who are of childbearing age, housing has long become “six wallets to feed one house”; the poor quality of government public education is the next best thing, and college tuition alone has become a heavy burden for many families. What is even more painful for the Chinese is that even after college, it is difficult to find employment, and even if they are barely employed, most of them are paid just enough to live on.
The overall hopeless state of China’s young generation can be calibrated by two sets of data: First, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang revealed in late May 2020 that China’s per capita annual income is 30,000 yuan, with 600 million people with low and middle incomes and below, earning an average of about 1,000 yuan a month. This is exactly the same as what was expressed in a survey released by the United Nations in March 2020: 267 million young people worldwide are in the “three no’s” of “no work, no school, no training”. According to the report, the global youth unemployment rate is about 13.6%; nearly 55 million of the 429 million working youth worldwide are extremely poor, living on less than $1.90 a day, accounting for 13% of the total; 71 million are moderately poor, living on less than $3.20 a day, accounting for 17% of the total.
The situation in China is probably similar to this report, and even if they are working, many of them should be in a state of barely making ends meet. Why is China’s young generation “lying flat” – a word that has been given the meaning of social rebellion. However, no matter what the external gold powder, the core meaning is low material desire, low consumption, corresponding to the low income or even not work. Many young people do not see the future, even if they work 12 hours a day, working two jobs, but also can not afford to buy a house; many people feel that marriage to provide for the family is already a burden, to provide for a child are many people need to gnaw or even intergenerational gnawing, the birth of three children, that is not tired to the ground gasping for air?
Young people born in the 1980s and 1990s are already the backbone of society, and their bleak lives, where they see no hope for advancement today, are actually the fate of China for the next 20 years.
Reasons why the right to make fertility decisions should be returned to families
What has been said before is that the Chinese government is making fertility decisions without taking into account the current situation and ignoring the fact that half of China’s population simply cannot afford the cost of educating themselves about having children. But the real problem is not here, it is that the Chinese government should not overstep its authority in making family-level decisions like childbirth. The only truly qualified decision-makers on whether a family has children are the couples in that family. For they, alone, know whether they are financially able to take on the task of having and raising several children.
The 1980s and 1990s, when they were of childbearing age, experienced the industrialization of education in China, the difficulties of employment, and the new three mountains of health care, education, and housing, the “China Rising” period. Many of them were highly educated and knew that their parents had worked hard for them to pay for their college education, and some of them were financed by their parents and grandparents to buy a house.
The following is the cost of childbirth (upbringing) as calculated by some people in China.
Someone calculated a few years ago that it costs 980,000 yuan to live in a second-tier city and raise a child from pregnancy to college graduation
Netease on June 4 of this year, posted an article “I raised three children in Beijing and spent 3 million per year”. This is the way to hope for a high starting point for your child. The minimum cost of childbirth is 980,000 yuan, which is almost 50,000 per year on an annual basis. China’s policy of industrializing higher education has been accompanied by a decline in the quality of higher education; with the expansion of colleges and universities has come the unemployment of college graduates. This is a Chinese story that has been going on since 2003. At first, the media took it seriously, but after it became the social norm, the focus shifted to returnees returning to China with low-paying jobs or unable to find work. Although the result of over-education is a much lower return than the investment in education, as employment becomes increasingly difficult, parents will still spend all their money on their children’s education as long as they can afford it.
Therefore, it is only logical that the decision to have children should be in the hands of the family, not the government. Because, regardless of the circumstances, it is the family that bears all the hard work and costs of raising children, and there is no reason for the government to dictate a family’s reproductive plans, both in terms of social ethics and investment-return logic. There is another factor to consider: once reproductive rights become a scarce resource allocated by the government, they become an item that some people trade for.
When it comes to the country’s education system, this is when the government (state power) needs to step in.
State power should guide the allocation of educational resources
The difficulty of finding employment after graduating from a university liberal arts education is a common problem faced by countries around the world.
Third Way, a U.S. think tank, released a study in 2020, “The P/E Premium: A New Way to Measure Return on Investment in Higher Education. The study found that schools with no return on investment are overwhelmingly concentrated in for-profit institutions. For example, most students at 51 percent of for-profit colleges earn less than high school graduates, meaning that students who attend these institutions do not receive financial rewards through higher education.
This report actually overestimates the return on investment for U.S. colleges. Even at non-profit universities, the liberal arts education they offer is stuffed with cultural Marxist political theory, all sorts of theories that the American left is passionate about, and which society does not need, and which can only be employed by government and NGOs. In my circle of acquaintances, many of them have children who went to Ivy League schools, but after graduation, many of them are in a difficult employment situation, either employed at half-pay or taking a new practical and technical course at a community college. One M.A. student who graduated from Columbia University with a degree in critical writing ended up choosing a career that involved six months working in offshore drilling for a company in the North Sea oil fields in England and six months writing from home. The job he earned his living from had nothing to do with his major, but his six-month income was three times the annual income of a liberal arts college student.
After the industrialization of higher education, China experienced a great leap forward in higher education, and many colleges and universities that did not have university qualifications were upgraded to universities, thus further inferiorizing Chinese university education. According to occupational stratification, the number of people who would have entered the elite class in a country is limited, which is why there are nearly 70,000 people with a master’s degree or higher among China’s approximately 7 million domestic delivery boys. For Chinese families, spending a high investment to train a master’s degree to deliver is not the kind of education and investment needed for delivery, no matter how much meaning the media find in it.
Therefore, the Chinese government should squeeze the water out of the education system and learn from the German experience by separating vocational education from general high school in high school. Vocational high school education should be diversified, with a wide choice of industries.
To conclude this article: the government (state power) should not intervene in family reproductive decisions; the decision of whether to have children and how many to have is up to the family. What the government should do is to improve the quality of education and reduce the waste of resources in education (including those paid by families); improve social conditions, focusing on curbing housing prices and keeping the social upward pipeline as smooth as possible.