HEADLINE Lower living costs a remedy for population decrease in China


Lower living costs a remedy for population decrease in China

By Yaoran Yu | People's Daily app

11:18, January 30, 2018


As China's birthrate continues to drop, older generations are wondering if their successors will prevent an incurable population crisis before it’s too late. Meanwhile, young adults are waking up to the fact that starting a family isn’t cheap, and expiecially so in cities focused on setting the pace of modernization.

Observers have predicted that within a decade China could be trapped in the throes of a population dilemma never before seen in the modern era.

Predictions such as these stem from a declining young adult population that will eventually influence China’s economy and society. 

Such concerns are not without merit. 

In 2016, the birthrate dropped 3.5 percent from the previous year as China’s newborn population was roughly 17 million.

There has also been a decline in the population of women between the ages of 19 to 49, the demographic’s age range. 

Economic concerns

Citing economic concerns, one child is expensive enough, but having two is next to impossible for working-class families in China’s bigger cities. 

Today, it is cheaper to raise one child in the US from birth through college graduation than it is in Beijing or Shanghai.

Outside of financial pressure, changes in society have been a factor in the ensuing birthrate crisis. 

Since the advent of China’s reform and opening-up policies of the late 1970’s society has remained on an innovative path that has led to a better quality of life for everyone.

But improvements in the social security and pension systems haven’t been enough to inspire younger couples to have children. 

The long-term result could reveal how Chinese millennials value a carefree lifestyle much more than the previous generations. But it could also reveal a more practical attitude that says, “What’s the point of doing something I can’t afford?”

Fertility culture

Another influence on the low birthrate has been fertility culture. 

Within two decades, the average age of first-time childbearing mothers has risen from 22 to 26. 

The one-child policy left an impression on those born during the eighties and nineties.

The members of this generation do not know what it’s like to have a brother or sister.  They are an “only child” generation, unique to the world as no other country has anything close to it. 

But mathematically speaking, in China, a married couple will have to support four parents and one child. 

The term “4-2-1 families” is often applied and includes four grandparents, two parents, and one child  That’s six sets of eyes all on one child, which is too much attention for anyone to have. 

Emotional side-effects will surface as these children get older leaving them disconnected from the rest of the world. 

The positive aspect happens when the couple is young, and their parents help out.  Unlike US families, the Chinse family bond is much tighter when it comes to real-world survival.

But a rapid economy and ever-changing lifestyles have changed the psychological landscape, especially on those under the age of 30.

Elite childcare is becoming more popular in China. Chinese parents are paying unprecedented attention to their child’s education and material needs. 

It cannot be ignored how unrealistic expectations have forced themselves upon China’s younger generations. 

From choosing the right kindergarten to getting accepted to the best universities, Chinese parents are doing everything they can to guarantee their child will receive an education that will help them win the real world. 

There’s a massive difference between a great school and one that is average. Of course, the differences are usually measured by tuition fees.  

Other material needs include cars,  toys, clothes, and the latest techno gadgets, all of which serve as status symbols. 

Many feel that having a second child would only mean less time and attention for their firstborn. In some ways, the first child is sacrificed for the sake of the second. 

Plus the decline in the quality of life will create vulnerabilities later in life when they enter real-world competitive arenas. 

We have to admit that China is faced with two serious challenges that need to be resolved as soon as possible. A declining birthrate combined with an aging population is a problem no country wants.  

Fundamental changes in salaries and cost-of-living expenses would help as raising a child is a long-term investment. 

Aside from economic factors, Chinese society will need to work diligently at creating a fair education system while promoting rational childrearing ideas. 

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