Field notes

Young or old, it's a problem for China

The elderly and babies are two major headaches for the Chinese government right now. As China grows old at a rate faster than almost any country in recent years, the reversal of its decades-long one-child policy in 2015 has not done nearly enough to encourage young couples to have more babies. The Straits Times China Bureau looks at this twin problem.

BEIJING • When China restricted families in 1979 to having just one child to curb overpopulation and lift living standards, it chose to controversially enforce fines, sterilisation and even abortion to ensure couples comply.

Forty years on, it has dropped the stick and is instead dangling carrots in a desperate bid to create a baby boom to stave off gloomy predictions of serious socioeconomic problems. Some provinces have offered free delivery for second-time mums, while others are handing out bonuses and subsidies. But not many couples are biting.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2019, with the headline 'Young or old, it's a problem for China'. Print Edition | Subscribe