Birth rates across China down last year

BEIJING (China Daily/ANN) – Migration, changing ideas lead to declines.

Birth rates across China saw a general decline last year, with more developed regions generally recording lower birth rates, according to population statistics released by local authorities.

Beijing’s birth rate last year was 8.24 per 1,000, compared with 9.06 in 2017, the Beijing Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday.

Shanghai’s birth rate in 2018 was 7.2 per 1,000, compared with 8.1 a year prior, according to the municipality’s statistics bureau.

Liaoning province’s birth rate last year was 6.39 per 1,000, down from 6.49 in 2017, according to the provincial statistics bureau.

Compared with developed regions such as Beijing and Shanghai, where birth rates are among the lowest in the nation, less-developed western regions recorded higher birth rates. For example, Qinghai province’s birth rate last year stood at 14.31 per 1,000, down from 14.42 in 2017, the provincial statistics bureau said.

As a whole, births on the Chinese mainland saw further declines last year to 15.23 million, a decrease of 2 million compared with 2017, with a birth rate of 10.94 per 1,000, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Last year was the second consecutive year the birth rate declined since the universal second-child policy was adopted in 2016-a move meant to counter problems such as population ageing and a dwindling work force.

The decline in births has prompted concerns among some population experts that a general decrease in the total population may come earlier than expected.

Huang Kuangshi, a population researcher at the China Population and Development Research Centre, said disparities in birth rates between different regions may be linked with migration.

“In big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, a large proportion of the total population has migrated from other places, and includes many women who are unmarried or will marry at a more advanced age,” the researcher said.

“This causes lower overall birth rates,” he said.

In Northeast China, lower birth rates result from the area having a net outward migration, resulting in loss of a number of young women of childbearing age, Huang said.

Yuan Xin, a professor of population studies at Nankai University, said that with greater economic and social development, people’s minds are evolving on traditional concepts of marriage and parenthood.

“Young people’s ideas of family and giving birth are changing, and traditional values such as sustaining family lineages through giving birth have been weakening,” he said.

In more developed areas such as Beijing and Shanghai in particular, an increasing number of people are choosing to delay marriage and childbirth or to remain single and childless, which resulted in a drop of overall births over the past few years, he said.

In big cities, couples are less willing to give birth considering the relatively higher costs of raising children, including higher housing prices and fierce competition for quality education, Yuan said.

Throughout China and the whole world, it is generally the trend that people in more developed areas tend to have fewer children, he said.

In addition to worries about the financial burdens of raising children, difficulty in finding day care for offspring when the parents are at work is also a major reason why couples are reluctant to have children, according to a survey by the National Health Commission.

The commission will work with other departments to research and improve policies involving taxation, employment, social security and housing to support the implementation of the universal second-child policy, according to the commission.

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