With China looking to raise its historically low birth rate, more provinces are walking back decades-old regulations allowing employers to fire workers who flout the country’s restrictive family planning policy.
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, located in southern China and sharing a border with Vietnam, has become the latest provincial-level region to buck the old rules. According to Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper, the Guangxi People’s Congress published its revised family planning policy on Sept. 27, eliminating a clause that said having more than two children could be a fireable offense.
Before Guangxi, at least eight other provincial-level regions had already scrapped similarly draconian rules in favor of less severe disciplinary measures like demotion, demerits, and heavy fines amid growing calls from the local and national levels to relax controls on childbirth.
For decades, having more children than China allows has been a fireable offense, as well as taboo in the eyes of domestic employers. Under the country’s family planning policy, people working for both private and state-affiliated firms fell under such scrutiny, with civil servants, police, teachers, and other public officials being subject to severe punishments.
After the two-child policy went into effect in 2016, rigid restrictions on having more children remained, although they’ve been gradually — but unevenly — eased thanks to backlash from scholars and firm nudges from China’s highest legislative body.
Last year, the case of a couple in the southern Guangdong province who lost their public-sector jobs for having a third child again spotlighted the tight grip of some local authorities on childbirth. Responding to media-driven backlash, the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress in May pushed provinces to amend their policies, saying that carrying on with a hardline stance would be detrimental to the country’s demographic makeup and long-term goals.
In 2019, China recorded its lowest birth rate since the country was founded over 70 years before, with only 14.65 million babies born. Years of low fertility rates and an aging population have increasingly worried China’s policymakers. Yet since the one-child policy was abolished, the expected birth rate boom has not come, as families continue to weigh the financial, emotional, and professional costs of having additional children.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: Two girls play at a park in Sanya, Hainan province, Oct. 3, 2020. People Visual)