The immediate reaction to China’s population policy change to allow married couples to have three children has been that it is likely to have limited impact on falling birth rates. This move comes just five years after the Asian economic giant scrapped altogether its already relaxed one-child policy to allow all married couples to have two children. The change comes after China’s latest census published last month showed population growth was at its slowest, 5.38 per cent, over the past decade since the 1950s. It also follows four years of decline in the number of newborns to a record-low of 12 million last year despite the new two-child policy. It appears that Chinese policy makers are trying, through this latest move, to slow the slide of the country’s fertility rate which has hit a new low of 1.3, but not to reverse it.
If nothing is done, China’s population will start to decline, possibly in the next few years, a situation that could impact its economic growth and endeavour to become a moderately developed country by 2035. Yet, China’s own analysts are of the view that such a move is unlikely to reverse the overall trend of population decline. Instead, they see the new policy as part of efforts to build a family-friendly society and to encourage births to slow that slide. The government is expected to come up with a slew of support measures for marriage and to reduce child-raising burdens, including by improving child care and maternity leave provisions.