BEIJING • More than half of families in China do not want a second child, despite encouragement from the state, according to a study by the All-China Women's Federation, a government organisation.
Researchers interviewed 10,155 parents with children under the age of 15, across 10 Chinese provinces.
The findings suggest that the Chinese leadership's decision to relax family planning controls in 2013 was too little too late, said the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
The decision came only after more than three decades of rigid and brutal implementation of the one-child policy. The Chinese government decided in 2013 to let most couples have a second child, and two years later further relaxed the rules to allow all couples to have a second baby.
The survey, the SCMP said, offers fresh evidence that China's demographic time bomb continues to tick away. The country's population of 1.3 billion is ageing quickly, without a properly functioning pension and healthcare network in place to care for the growing number of elderly people.
Many couples were deterred by the expenses of having a second child, after the high costs of giving birth to and raising their firstborn, said Ms Chen Xiaoxia, an All-China Women's Federation director, the China Youth Daily reported.
This reluctance was marked in wealthier centres like Beijing and the eastern coastal cities, where 60 per cent of respondents did not want another baby, compared with 53.3 per cent in the entire survey.
Hefty urban property prices, expensive education bills and even smog were all cited as reasons not to procreate.
According to the SCMP, the findings echo China's birth data. After the first major relaxation of the one-child rule in 2014, the family planning commission in Beijing predicted that two million more babies would be born, but only 470,000 additional births were recorded.
China had 16.55 million new births last year, a fall of 320,000 from the year before, despite the policy relaxation.
China's labour force, which has been shrinking for four consecutive years, is expected to contract even faster in the coming years.