China close to low fertility trap
Jan 07, 2015

China's birthrate is moving toward a dangerously low level. Experts are calling for scrapping of restrictions on a second child as soon as possible, and even more aggressive changes to the family planning policy. Wu Guoxiu speaks to an expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences to get some insight.

The world's most populous country has a dangerously low birth rate. A recent report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences says the fertility rate in China is now 1.4 children per woman, close to the global warning line of 1.3, or the "low fertility trap". And it warns, once it slips into the trap, no country has ever returned to the replacement level.

"In the future we will have a labor shortage and labor aging, this is what definitely will happen. For the developed countries we observed, their response to that is introducing immigrants. However for China, we have such a large population, I don't think any country can fill this large hole when we need more labor force, so we can only solve this problem by ourselves," Professor Zheng Zhenzhen with Institute Of Population & Labor Economics, CASS, said.

For over thirty years, China had allowed each couple to have only one child. In 2013, it began to allow couples to have a second child if either is an only child. But few couples chose this option.

Official figures show of 11 million couples eligible for a second child, as of September, only 800,000 had applied. That's only 7 percent.

"According to our research, more money is not enough. They need to have more time and stable job, especially for the mother. For example, government staff, state-run enterprise staff, university professors and staff, they have relatively stable job, less competitive. On the other side, a lot of women working in high-competitive jobs look like less likely to have a second child," Professor Zheng said.

Experts from the Academy are calling the government to fully lift all restrictions on a second child, the sooner the better. And to adjust the family planning policy, even more.

"Maybe if we remove the birth-control policy, there will be more birth in a couple of years, it looks like a disadvantage in a short time, but it will make the population more balanced in the age structure in the long run, so it will benefit our economic development," Professor Zheng said.