2019-04-03 11:56:35

To help tackle the problem of China’s aging population, a fiber optics company in the eastern Jiangsu province is offering longer maternity leave and preferential consideration for promotions to employees who opt to have more children.

In a notice issued Monday titled “More Births Good Care Incentive Plan,” Far East Holding Group Co. Ltd., based in the city of Yixing, said that female employees would receive 20 extra days on top of the standard four months’ maternity leave if they had additional children, while male employees whose partners had more kids would receive 20 days’ paternity leave. The notice also said that staff with more children would be given preferential consideration for promotions. According to its website, Far East Holding Group has around 11,000 employees.

“Currently, there appears to be an aging population trend in our country: The demographic divide is disappearing,” the notice reads. “Childbirth is not merely a family affair, but a national affair.”

Sixth Tone’s phone calls to Far East Holding Group went unanswered on Wednesday. In an interview with The Paper, Sixth Tone’s sister publication, the company’s president, Jiang Xipei, said that Yixing’s problems are compounded because the city has not only an aging population, but also a high proportion of couples who have lost their only child and are past childbearing age.

According to Jiang, encouraging workers to have more kids raises their sense of responsibility and motivates them to work harder. “[This] is a present and future need,” he said.

Since 2012, China’s working-age population has decreased by 26 million people, Li Xiru, head of the department of population and employment at the National Bureau of Statistics, said in a January interview with news website China Economic Net. He added that the working-age population as a proportion of the country’s total population had also declined for seven consecutive years.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, there were around 250 million people aged 60 and above living in China at the end of 2018, accounting for 18 percent of the overall population. The country’s population aged 65 and above, meanwhile, accounted for 12 percent.

Since the beginning of 2016, China has allowed couples to have a maximum of two children or face hefty fines. He Yafu, a population scholar in the southern province of Guangdong, questions whether Far East Holding Group’s incentive scheme might encourage employees to break the law.

“The incentives suggest that the more children [families have], the more benefits [they’ll reap] from the company — which conflicts with the current two-child policy,” He told Sixth Tone.

In an earlier interview at the Boao Forum for Asia, Jiang said that he encouraged his own two children to have at least three kids each — prompting the moderator to joke that such views were a “flagrant violation of state policy.”

Far East Holding Group’s notice is being widely discussed on Chinese social media. While some netizens have voiced support for the extra maternity leave, others have suggested that finances are the biggest issue when it comes to having a second child.

“We decided not to have children — not because we’re short of maternity leave, but because we’re short of money,” one Weibo posted along with a hashtag about the story. “I might consider having a second child if you gave me 1 million yuan [$150,000],” wrote another.

Still another netizen cited China’s inflated property market as a major deterrent, quipping, “Housing prices are the best birth control.”

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: A pregnant woman stands in an office in Beijing, May 9, 2014. VCG)