In its latest attempt to deal with an ageing population, the Chinese government has introduced a contentious new plan encouraging adult children to live with or near their parents.
According to a detailed measure on population ageing issued by the State Council on Wednesday, authorities would roll out preferential policies for participants covering housing and utility costs in order to encourage more families to move in with ageing parents or stay nearby to provide better care.
The proposal, which was listed as one of over 20 approaches to address what is deemed a key threat to China's future but did not detail the incentives, has been criticized by many who believe it is impossible given high property prices in cities and a lack of jobs in rural areas.
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According to official figures, over 100 million individuals aged 60 and up live alone or with their spouses. Many of them are referred to as "left-behind seniors" in rural regions, where the social security system is weaker, while working-age people migrate to metropolitan areas to find jobs, as per SCMP.
Because of greater life expectancies and lower birth rates, Chinese society is aging faster than virtually any other nation on this planet. According to China's population census, 264 million people, or 18.7% of the country's 1.4 billion people, were aged 60 and up by the end of 2020. Meanwhile, households have shrunk dramatically. The average number of individuals living in a home has decreased from 3.1 in 2010 to 2.6 this year.
Last year, China's birth rate hit a new low, underlining a potential demographic problem for Beijing brought on by an aging workforce, a weakening economy, and the slowest population growth in decades. In 2016, China eased its 'one-child policy,' which was one of the harshest in the world, allowing couples to have two children. This was increased to three children earlier this year, as per Daily Mail.
However, as the cost of living rises and women increasingly make their own family planning decisions, the improvements have failed to produce the hoped-for baby boom.
According to the 2021 Statistical Yearbook, China had 8.52 births per 1,000 people last year, the lowest level since the yearbook began collecting statistics in 1978. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, this is a significant decrease from the previous year's 10.41 and the lowest level since Communist China was created in 1949.
Furthermore, according to the yearbook, the number of weddings recorded in 2020 will be at a 17-year low, with just 8.14 million couples marrying last year. Parts of central China were kept under heavy lockdown for months during the original COVID-19 pandemic, and many government offices were temporarily closed across the nation.
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As a follow-up to the policy decision permitting all couples to have three children, the central authorities released a policy paper in July aimed at cutting childrearing and schooling costs and creating a "fertility-friendly culture." China, on the other hand, eased its more than three-decade-old strict family planning policy in October 2015, allowing all couples to have two children.
This quick shift in family planning policy should be seen in light of China's rapidly aging population and low birth rate. Many analysts believe that China's socioeconomic climate, particularly in metropolitan regions, discourages couples from having more than two children, much alone three.
Per Big News Network, high housing prices and the insecurity of the rental housing market, in particular, are impeding young couples' ambitions to have children or even marry. According to Weibo popular searches, developing a "fertility-friendly" housing sector is a necessity for creating a "fertility-friendly atmosphere" for couples.