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2018-07-23 12:14:17

Faced with an aging population and declining birth rate, northwestern China’s Shaanxi province has suggested abolishing family planning restrictions “when the time is right,” according to a recent provincial report.

China in 2016 allowed married couples to have two kids after decades of restricting many people to just one child. But the subsequent increase in births has been lower than expected.

In its 2017 population report — made public at the end of June but only widely reported on by media in recent days — the Shaanxi statistics department notes that, compared with 2016, the province’s birth rate dropped, the labor force shrank, and the proportion of elderly residents increased. These trends are in line with national figures.

Besides dropping restrictions on family size, the report suggests the province implement financial incentives to “increase desire to procreate” and improve the conditions for raising children.

Though the two-child policy implemented in 2016 has helped grow Shaanxi’s population, the report notes that future trends are “weak.” For one, people in Shaanxi are marrying later. In 2016, 23,000 fewer couples tied the knot than the year before.

In a recent article for a publication under the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, Zhou Tianyong, vice dean of the Central Party School’s Institute of International Strategy, also called for an end to family planning restrictions.

Du Peng, director of Renmin University’s Institute of Gerontology, told Sixth Tone that many provinces are struggling with low birth rates. “To avoid future labor shortages in China, it is important not only to encourage fertility, but also to improve social infrastructure,” he said, adding that improvements to rural elderly care and education are necessary to cope with the bigger picture of China’s changing demographics.

Local governments around China have already implemented or announced policies to curb falling birth rates, such as increasing maternity leave. Going back to September 2016, Party cadres in a central Chinese city were called on to set an example by having two children. According to reports earlier this month, Liaoning province in northeastern China is considering subsidies for parents who have a second child.

Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.

(Header image: A mother with her two children in Dongguan, Guangdong province, April 15, 2017. VCG)