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Measures help young couples expand families

By LI LEI | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-08-04 09:46
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Officials roll out incentives as part of efforts to lift dwindling fertility rates in the nation

When China allowed all couples to have a third child on May 31 in response to the nation's flagging fertility rates, that turned out to be just the start of its efforts.

About two months later, authorities followed up with a combination of rules incentivizing young couples to expand families.

The rules mainly target rising education costs, a shortage of day care services and gender discrimination in the workplace.

Such issues have come under growing public scrutiny in recent years for chipping away at the appeal for working couples to have babies.

The rules were laid out in a landmark resolution made by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, China's Cabinet, on June 26.

Officially published almost a month later, the document said the aim is to overhaul the nation's childbirth policies and achieve long-term balanced population growth.

It said authorities will establish a support system by 2025 that will help greatly ease the burdens associated with child-rearing and education.

The reform will also produce more benefits that help improve the "gender ratio, structure and quality" of the Chinese population.

To achieve those goals, rapid investment will be greenlighted during the period to develop maternity and day care services and related facilities.

Kindergartens will also be encouraged to admit children slightly younger than 3, which is currently the minimum age a child can enroll in such schools.

Further, parents will be given tax breaks, easier access to subsidized housing and breastfeeding leave. Inspections will also be made to ensure pregnancy and childbirth do not jeopardize women's careers.

The supporting measures are expected to play an even larger role in improving fertility rates than simply adjusting family planning policies in the long run, said Yu Xuejun, deputy head of the National Health Commission.

He told a news conference last month in Beijing that the new three-child policy is intended to boost fertility rates and slow the downward spiral of the nation's population growth.

But whether that goal can be reached in the long run is dependent on the implementation of support measures, which requires coordination from nearly all departments at all levels, he said.

"Participation and support from all parties are needed to create a favorable demographic environment to build China into a modern socialist country and rejuvenate the nation," Yu said, referring to China's modernization goals set for 2035 and 2049.

Yu said figures from the first six months suggest that the country's fertility rate and number of newborns will continue to fall.

He noted that dwindling fertility rates will keep placing pressure on authorities to balance population growth.

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