China has announced a new three-child policy this week, further relaxing its population controls after census data showed a stark decline in birth rates. The move has sparked an outcry on the Chinese Internet, as people complain about about the policy’s potentially negative effect on young people who already face immense living pressure.
In 2016, China abolished its decades-long one-child policy and started to allow couples to have two children. The new three-child policy released on Monday aims to boost a domestic fertility rate which, according to the latest census, is among the lowest in the world.
The policy drew more than 4.2 billion comments on Chinese social media Weibo under the hashtag #Thethreechildpolicyiscoming, along with 65,000 discussions, with many asking what measures the government plans to adopt to facilitate having a third child.
Among the many plans mentioned in the government’s official announcement are: improving awareness of marriage and family values, abolishing outdated traditions of costly dowry, developing an affordable childcare system, promoting equality in education and lowering education costs, and enhancing maternity leave benefits.
In their complaints, many young people of childbearing age focused on the number of family members they would have to support if they had a third child. Many see this policy as yet another way to exploit wealth from the younger generation.
One Weibo user commented:
“Can’t they target some other age groups rather than focusing on those who were born in the 90s? We are already working around the clock but still can’t afford to buy a home, don’t dare to get married or have children. Suppose we get married, then we will need to support four parents from both sides, and three children if we are open to the idea, and take care of nine grandchildren by the time we retire (if we are lucky enough to live that long). It’s too hard!”
Sanlian Life Weekly noted:
“We often say that Chinese people born in the 80s and 90s are the generations that face the most difficulties – high living costs, working 996 (9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 6 days a week) and delayed retirement are the realities that have fallen on this generation. An even harder reality is that if this generation chooses to have three children, their children will bear even bigger costs to survive in the future.”
Young women who are impacted most directly by the new policy worry about their career opportunities. Women in China often face pressure from theirhusband’s family to give birth to a boy.
According to another Weibo user:
“Many women in China are struggling to reduce the career impact of having a baby. To avoid getting kicked out of key positions, pregnant women will work until their due date and return to work less than two weeks after delivery. Female postgraduates are inferior to male undergraduates. Many positions are clearly marked as ‘male only’ and ‘male first.’ Some women can only hide their pregnancy to avoid career stagnation, where they would be transferred directly from key positions to marginal or idle jobs. I would like to ask, with the coming of the three-child policy, where are the supports and facilitating measures for the two-child policy?”
A third Weibo user commented:
“In the past, there were many families that would rather get fined to have one more baby. Nowadays, young people don’t want to have children because they cannot afford a quality life and cannot support their children due to high education and housing costs, as well as a more competitive job market.”
Given China’s aging population, the government will likely continue to relax the birth policy. However, whether these policies will succeed in reversing the weakening population growth and rebalancing the country’s gender gap remains a subject of debate.