Rapid aging, shrinking workforce, makes China consider incentives for couples to have second child

BE2C2 Report — Rapid aging and a shrinking workforce is making China consider offering couples an incentive to have a second baby, the opposite of a four-decades policy of harsh fines for more than one child.

Wang Pei’an, vice minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, revealed the possibility Saturday at a meeting of the China Social Welfare Academy, which works closely with the government.

Wang said “birth rewards and subsidies” would help economically burdened families have more children.

Quoting a survey, Wang said the commission found in 2015 that “60% of families polled expressed reluctance to have a second baby largely due to economic constraints”.

China relaxed its controversial and strictly implemented “one child” policy two years ago to allow couples to have a second child. The fine originally was $31,250 under China’s family planning laws.

“Nationwide, the change led to 17.8 million births in 2016, an increase of more than 1.3 million compared with the previous year and the biggest annual increase in 20 years,” state-run China Daily newspaper reported on Tuesday.

According to experts and published reports, China seeks to increase its workforce proportionately, as its old age population increases.

A 2015 World Bank report said China’s population now is aging with almost 10 percent of the population older than 65, 114 million.

China, with a 1.2 billion population, “will grow old before getting rich,” said Philip O’Keefe, lead author of the World Bank report.

By 2050, the number of people 60 and older will reach 400 million, accounting for 30 percent of the population, according to government data provided to China Daily. And the workforce is projected to shrink proportionately.

“The second child policy is a choice by the top decision-makers facing a dilemma of the existing challenges and structural population problems like rapid aging and a shrinking workforce,” Yuan Xin, a professor at Nankai University in Tianjin, told the newspaper.

China is one of the top fastest growing economies in the world, and some economists believe China will overtake the U.S. with a larger GDP in a matter of a few years.

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