What Are China’s Two-Child Families Worried About?

2018-02-26 11:55:48

A recent survey shows that Chinese families with two children are increasingly anxious about child safety and elderly care.

The Second Child Anxiety Index Survey was first carried out in 2016 — the year the two-child policy was implemented across China, ending 35 years of family planning rules limiting most parents to just one child.

Conducted by Guangdong media outlets in partnership with the Guangdong Academy of Population Development, the third annual survey was published Thursday. In 2018, the report polled more than 4,000 respondents, 70 percent of whom had two children.

This year’s survey identified child safety as a new and major source of anxiety for parents. Last year, two high-profile toddler abuse cases — at a Ctrip day care center in Shanghai and an RYB Education facility in Beijing — provoked public outcry and stricter government regulation of kindergartens.

More than 45 percent of participants in this year’s survey expressed concerns about their children’s safety at kindergarten. However, more than half of the respondents who had one child answered that negative news reports would not affect their decision to have a second child.

For many two-child families, financial pressures were paramount among their sources of stress: More than 75 percent believed that more money would be the most effective solution for their problems. But many mothers of two feel a deep sense of despair when it comes to their careers, with more than 63 percent saying they had no plans for their career paths and felt helpless about the future.

A 2016 study found that the average income of Chinese families with two children was 20 percent lower than those with one child.

Meanwhile, the prospect of caring for elders has increased anxiety for parents. In 2016, only 20 percent of respondents expressed concerns about elderly care, compared with more than 45 percent this year — a jump Dong Yuzheng, director of the Guangdong Academy of Population Development, called “astounding.”

“When a couple needs to take care of four parents and two children, the pressure is considerable,” Dong told local media.

Postponing pregnancy adds to the pressure, as more Chinese women are having children later in life, when their parents are already of an advanced age, and they are closer to retirement themselves. Inadequate or expensive child care and elderly care services leave the middle generation struggling to juggle the responsibilities and costs of caring for young and old alike.

Two years into the two-child policy, birth rates appear to be declining. In 2017, the national birth rate fell to 12.43 percent, compared with 12.95 percent the previous year, and the number of newborns dropped by more than half a million year-on-year.

Most parents, meanwhile, are coping: More than 75 percent of survey respondents said that though they feel stressed, they have their anxieties under control.

But some 6 percent said they have “extreme” thoughts. To alleviate the pressure on parents, Dong recommended more government subsidies and support, as well as greater investment in public child care, early education centers, and parenting facilities.

Editor: Qian Jinghua.

(Header image: A couple take a walk through a residential community with their two children in Guiyang, Guizhou province, Nov. 10, 2015. Mu Yuying/VCG)