5 ways China’s trying to get people to have more babies — from cash incentives to cracking down on the ‘bride price’ – DAVID RAUDALES


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5 ways China’s trying to get people to have more babies — from cash incentives to cracking down on the ‘bride price’

China’s birth rate is falling.

Zhang Peng/LightRocket/Getty Images

China is rolling out a slew of measures to promote marriages and boost birth rates.
In 2022, China’s population started shrinking for the first time in six decades.
The trend has spurred renewed fervor to reverse its demographic crisis.

China is desperately trying to get people to have babies.

The push for marriage and babies comes after China last year saw a record low of 6.83 million marriages registered. The country’s population has even started shrinking for the first time in six decades, hitting 1.425 billion this year — falling behind India’s 1.428 billion population, according to the United Nations. 

An aging population will have profound implications for China’s economy, labor force, and healthcare system. 

China has been so keen on adding babies to its population that it scrapped its infamous one-child policy in 2016 and in 2021 started allowing couples to have up to three kids.

But the push doesn’t appear to be enough to entice people to have more babies.

Here’s how China has tried to get its people to have more babies over the past two years. 

1. Local governments and companies are offering cash incentives

In February, the government of Hangzhou, a tech hub in East China and home to the e-commerce giant Alibaba, started granted new parents 20,000 Chinese yuan, or about $2,800, as a one-off subsidy for having a third child this year. Wenzhou, a city in southeast China, is offering would-be parents up to 3,000 yuan in subsidies per child.

Other Chinese cities and provinces, such as Shanghai and the major coal producer Shanxi, also increased the number of paid marriage leave days from three to up to 30.

In June, the travel agency Trip.com said it would offer employees who had worked for the company for three years or more an annual cash bonus of 10,000 yuan for the first five years of their child’s life. The incentives are part of a 1 billion-yuan program Trip.com is investing in to support family planning and working families, it said in the announcement.

Other companies offering similar incentives include the agricultural firm Beijing Dabeinong Technology and QiaoYin City Management, which offers sanitation services.

2. One county is giving a cash reward if a bride is 25 or younger

Chinese authorities and companies are not only incentivizing people have babies but also pushing its citizens — primarily women — to get married and have babies earlier in life.

In August, a county in eastern China started offering couples 1,000 yuan in cash if the bride was 25 years old or younger, according to a post on its official WeChat account. The minimum legal age for marriage is 22 for men and 20 for women.

Changshan County in the Zhejiang province said the reward was to promote “age-appropriate marriage and childbearing” for those marrying for the first time.

3. Provinces are trying to stop the practice of betrothal gifts

As male children are traditionally favored in China, there is a huge number of bachelors, particularly in the rural regions. The country’s now defunct one-child rule is believed to have played a part in skewing the population’s gender ratio.

To make it less financially prohibitive for men to get married, China — including Daijiapu, a town in the southeastern province of Jiangxi and the central province of Hebei — has been cracking down on a customary practice that requires a man to pay his prospective in-laws a “bride price,” or a betrothal gift to the family of his bride in a show of his wealth and sincerity.

In March, the issue made it into the ongoing National People’s Congress meeting. A delegate from the state-backed All-China Women’s Federation, a women’s rights organization, proposed that authorities look into measures to curb expensive betrothal gifts.

4. Some cities are helping with fertility treatments 

In June, Beijing announced it would extend medical-insurance coverage to locals for more than a dozen fertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization, embryo transplantation, and the freezing and storing of semen. 

Some areas, such as Sichuan in Western China, have since January relaxed restrictions on birth registrations that previously allowed only married couples to register their newborns. The Sichuan authorities said at the time the move was intended to shift the focus on birth registration to “the desire and results of childbearing.”

The measures are a big deal since having children out of wedlock is culturally unacceptable in China.

Authorities have even started discussing whether to allow single women to freeze their eggs. Discussions appear to be in their early stages. Laws prohibit unmarried women from all assisted reproductive technology, including egg freezing. Men, regardless of their marital status, are allowed to freeze their sperm.

5. Authorities have also cracked down on private tutoring 

Other than doling out incentives and subsidies, Chinese authorities in July 2021 went as far as banning the private-tutoring industry countrywide. 

The move is directed at making education less financially stressful for families, who are often pressured to spend large amounts of money to help their children get ahead in school.

However, the crackdown on for-profit classes not only decimated China’s $120 billion private-education industry but also sent it underground. As a result, some parents are spending more on private tutoring than before the ban, Bloomberg reported in July.

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