China professor calls for million-yuan reward to boost birth rates

China's population rose by its slowest rate in decades from 2010-2020. PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - A Chinese professor has urged the government to offer parents 1 million yuan (S$206,300) for each newborn child in a bid to shore up the country's declining birth rate, sparking a debate on social media about the soaring costs of raising children.

China's population rose by its slowest rate in decades from 2010-2020, the country's latest census showed, raising fears that the country's dwindling workforce will be unable to support an increasingly elderly population.

Liang Jianzhang, professor at Peking University's School of Economics and also founder of travel service provider Ctrip, said in a video posted on his Weibo social media channel that it would cost 10 per cent of China's GDP to raise birth rates from the current 1.3 to the replacement level of 2.1.

That amounts to 1 million yuan per child, and could be allocated in the form of cash, tax relief or housing subsidies, he said.

"I've spoken to a lot of young people ... if it's just a few tens of thousands of yuan it basically wouldn't encourage people to have another child," he said.

The costs would be offset by future contributions made to the economy, said Liang.

"If a family gives birth to another child, that child's future contributions to social security, to tax revenues, will exceed 1 million yuan," he said.

The comments were trending on Weibo on Tuesday night (May 11), with users debating whether it was a reasonable use of China's tax revenues, and whether 1 million yuan was even enough to cover educational costs.

"Having a child and not making the most of their talents is considered a crime in today's society," said a user posting under the name Not Old and Confused.

"It should be done as early as possible - if you wait a couple of years no one will want to give birth even for 2 million yuan," said another user named Rainy Wind.

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