Babies wanted: China’s desperate attempt to save declining birth rate

China announced earlier this year that married couples can have up to three children, after data showed a dramatic decline in births in the world’s most populous country of over 1.4 billion people.

Since then, 14 provinces have either amended local family planning rules or are seeking public opinion to make amendments to laws to confer extra maternity or paternity leave. Even a “child-raising leave” for couples with children aged 3 or below has been created in some provinces, state media reported on Wednesday.

The southern island province of Hainan is offering 1 hour of child-raising leave each day for parents with children under 3. The province of Heilongjiang even allows couples in border cities to have four children, due to the below-average birth rate in China’s remote northeastern region.

Shaanxi, a province in northwest China, is looking to increase the duration of paid maternity leave to nearly one full year, putting it on par with some developed nations in Europe, like Germany or Norway. The province is also considering doubling the length of paternity leave to 30 days for couples looking to have a third child.

In 2016, Beijing scrapped its decades-old one-child policy and replaced it with a two-child limit to counter a rapidly aging population. But that failed to boost births, partly due to the relatively high cost of raising children in urban China, which is a challenge that still persists. China had a fertility rate of just 1.3 children per woman in 2020, recent data showed, on par with aging societies like Japan and Italy.

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