China's Ministry of Public Security this week released preliminary data on the country's fertility, The Guardian reported. There were 10.035 million births in 2020. With that number at 11.8 million in 2019, the record was broken again, with the figures in recent years being the lowest since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Registration data also highlighted the persisting gender imbalance again: almost 53% of newborns were boys. They were born 545,000 more than girls.
For the Chinese economy, the decline in the birth rate is an alarming sign, since the country's population is rapidly aging, and the possibilities of state support for pensioners are small. It is projected that by 2050, about a third of residents will be over 60 years old. At the same time, as reported in a 2019 report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the state pension fund is likely to run out of reserves by 2035.
According to experts, the new figures are further evidence that China is experiencing an unprecedented demographic crisis. The pandemic also did its part, but its impact was small. The birth rate in the country has been falling for many years, and the total population in the graphs is on a downward curve. The cancellation of the policy "one family - one child" in 2016 failed to break this trend, although it caused a short-term surge in the birth rate.
A 2017 poll showed that 50% of families with one child are not going to have a second. The very mood of society has changed: people no longer want to have large families. This is also evidenced by the fact that even in areas where the “one child” policy was not applied, the birth rate was still low. Affects the general trend and labor migration: in China there is a layer of 200 million people who go to work in the cities, leaving their children in the villages, and this also weakens the bonds between parents and children.
Many women, primarily urban dwellers with a high level of education, no longer consider marriage and parental responsibilities an indispensable component of a fulfilling and happy life. Good education, high income, career opportunities allow them to manage their own lives as they see it. And society has become more tolerant than before.
Those who do not mind giving birth face serious obstacles. Chinese feminists say that the country lacks a system of social support for young mothers: parental leave is inadequately short, women are still subject to gender discrimination in the workplace, the costs of children are high, and the mother is mainly responsible.
Adherence to traditions at the state level also hinders: the birth of children is still closely related to marriage, and reproductive services are available to opposite-sex spouses, but not to single women, same-sex or unmarried couples. The authorities want children, but these children must be born in a traditional heterosexual family.
The final picture of China's fertility statistics for 2020 is expected in April.