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Guangdong birth rate bucks national average

By ZHENG CAIXIONG in Guangzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-12 10:10
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Guangdong province has maintained a birth rate comparatively higher than other urbanized areas of the country, according to the recently published China Statistical Yearbook 2023.

The province registered 8.3 births per 1,000 people in 2022, with 1.052 million newborns, making Guangdong the only province with more than 1 million births for three years in a row.

It has also had the largest number of births for five consecutive years.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Guangdong's urbanization rate was 74.7 percent last year, ranking fourth highest in the country, only behind the three major municipalities: Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin.

In 2022, Guangdong's birth rate outpaced the national average of 6.77 births per 1,000 people.

This is contrary to the typical trend of higher urbanization levels corresponding to lower birth rates, considering urban residents usually have fewer children due to increased demands, including higher living costs, education pressures and career aspirations.

Meanwhile, Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin had some of the country's lowest birth rates last year, with 4.35,5.67 and 4.75 births per 1,000 people, respectively.

Peng Peng, executive president of Guangdong Society of Reform, attributed Guangdong's higher birth rates to the large influx of relatively young people into the province.

"The inflow population is predominantly composed of individuals at the optimal age of marriage and childbirth," he added.

Notably, people in Guangdong's western and eastern regions, including the cities of Shantou, Chaozhou, Jieyang and Zhanjiang, have stronger family values and stronger willingness to have children, Peng said.

Dong Yuzheng, former president of Guangdong Academy of Population Development and a special researcher of Guangdong Provincial Advisory Office, highlighted Guangdong's historical and cultural tradition of promoting childbirth.

The birth rates in western and eastern parts of Guangdong are still relatively high compared with other areas due to traditions, although fertility intentions have also witnessed declines in recent years.

"Furthermore, the economic development in Guangdong has better supported families to have children, leading to a larger population of high fertility age," he said.

Although Guangdong has seen relatively higher levels of births, its population and birth rates are declining. According to local statistics, more than 1.18 million babies were born in Guangdong in 2021, with a birth rate of 9.35 births per 1,000 people, while there were 1.29 million newborns in 2020, and the birth rate was 10.28 births per 1,000 people.

Highlighting the ongoing decline in the birth rate, Dong said he advocates further incentives to encourage childbirth. Besides maternity subsidies, he suggested cultivating a society that is welcoming toward childbirth and accommodating for children and the elderly.

Government departments should further promote services for children under the age of 3 while sparing no effort to build more apartments and nursing homes for the elderly, he said.

According to a recent survey by the Guangdong Academy of Population Development, 85.7 percent of respondents wanted to have one child or more, among which 51.6 percent expected to have more than two.

The survey was conducted earlier this year in five cities and 11 counties, covering 13,039 people eligible for marriage and childbirth.

However, more than 30 percent of people born after 2000 are against the idea of raising children, owing mostly to the economic burdens associated with raising a child.

Fei Siying, a resident in Guangzhou born in the 1990s, said that she has no intentions of having more children. "It's challenging to juggle with a high-stress life and work," she said, adding that the cost of housing and child-rearing are high.

Zhang Jiexin contributed to this story.

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