By Didi Tang
BEIJING: Don’t expect a new Chinese baby boom, experts say, despite the first easing of the country’s controversial one-child policy in three decades.
Some 15 million to 20 million Chinese parents will be allowed to have a second child after the government announced Friday that couples where one partner has no siblings can have two children. But the easing of the policy is so incremental that demographers and policymakers are not anticipating an influx of newborn babies at a time when young Chinese couples are already opting for smaller families, driving the country’s fertility rate down to 1.5-1.6 births per woman.
“A baby boom can be safely ruled out,” said Wang Feng, professor of sociology at the University of California Irvine.
Wang noted that although Chinese couples where both parents have no siblings have for some time been allowed to have a second child, many have elected to have only one.
“Young people’s reproductive desires have changed,” he said.
Xia Gaolong and his wife are among those who will be allowed to have a second child as a result of the new policy, but he said he has no intention of giving his 10-year-old son a sibling.
Xia, who runs a tour bus business in Nanjing, said the high cost of living and fierce competition for schools and jobs would deter him from bringing another child into the world.
“No way will I have another child,” said Xia, who is in his late 30s. “There are so many pressures in life in today’s society, and our children will only face more pressures.”
Experts estimate that the new rules allowing couples where one partner is an only child to have a second baby will result in 1 million to 2 million extra births per year in the first few years, on top of the 16 million babies born annually in China.
Faced with a growing population, China’s government began to implement birth planning policies in the 1970s and placed a de facto one-child limit in 1980. It eased restrictions four years later to allow many families to have two children — including couples who do not have any siblings and rural couples whose firstborn is a girl. Millions of Chinese families also have managed to have additional children by paying fines.