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Birthrates across country down last year

By WANG XIAODONG | China Daily | Updated: 2019-03-22 08:10
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A newborn baby. [Photo/IC]

Birthrates across China saw a general decline last year, with more developed regions generally recording lower birthrates, according to population statistics released by local authorities.

Beijing's birthrate last year was 8.24 per 1,000, compared with 9.06 in 2017, the Beijing Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday.

Shanghai's birthrate in 2018 was 7.2 per 1,000, compared with 8.1 a year prior, according to the municipality's statistics bureau.

Liaoning province's birthrate last year was 6.39 per 1,000, down from 6.49 in 2017, according to the provincial statistics bureau.

Compared with developed regions such as Beijing and Shanghai, where birthrates are among the lowest in the nation, less-developed western regions recorded higher birthrates. For example, Qinghai province's birthrate last year stood at 14.31 per 1,000, down from 14.42 in 2017, the provincial statistics bureau said.

As a whole, births on the Chinese mainland saw further declines last year to 15.23 million, a decrease of 2 million compared with 2017, with a birthrate of 10.94 per 1,000, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Last year was the second consecutive year the birthrate declined since the universal second-child policy was adopted in 2016-a move meant to counter problems such as population aging and a dwindling work force.

The decline in births has prompted concerns among some population experts that a general decrease in the total population may come earlier than expected.

Huang Kuangshi, a population researcher at the China Population and Development Research Center, said disparities in birthrates between different regions may be linked with migration.

"In big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, a large proportion of the total population has migrated from other places, and includes many women who are unmarried or will marry at a more advanced age," the researcher said.

"This causes lower overall birthrates," he said.

In Northeast China, lower birthrates result from the area having a net outward migration, resulting in loss of a number of young women of childbearing age, Huang said.

Yuan Xin, a professor of population studies at Nankai University, said that with greater economic and social development, people's minds are evolving on traditional concepts of marriage and parenthood.

"Young people's ideas of family and giving birth are changing, and traditional values such as sustaining family lineages through giving birth have been weakening," he said.

In more developed areas such as Beijing and Shanghai in particular, an increasing number of people are choosing to delay marriage and childbirth or to remain single and childless, which resulted in a drop of overall births over the past few years, he said.

In big cities, couples are less willing to give birth considering the relatively higher costs of raising children, including higher housing prices and fierce competition for quality education, Yuan said.

Throughout China and the whole world, it is generally the trend that people in more developed areas tend to have fewer children, he said.

In addition to worries about the financial burdens of raising children, difficulty in finding day care for offspring when the parents are at work is also a major reason why couples are reluctant to have children, according to a survey by the National Health Commission.

The commission will work with other departments to research and improve policies involving taxation, employment, social security and housing to support the implementation of the universal second-child policy, according to the commission.

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