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China requires creative measures to boost child-birth rates

Editor: Qian Ding 丨CCTV.com

02-08-2018 10:59 BJT

By Tom McGregor, CCTV.com Panview commentator and editor

With much fanfare at the end of 2015, the Chinese government altered its family planning policy to permit all married couples to have a second children without restrictions, starting in 2016. The strategy was simple, to encourage rising birth-rates in the nation.

Demographics in China, as well as with most countries and regions in the Asia-Pacific have been trending towards lower birth rates and rapidly-aging populations. That means in the next few decades fewer people will enter the workforce to boost economic activities and generate tax revenues to fund welfare and medical care benefits for the elderly and retired citizens.

Many Asian parents remain reluctant to raise more than one child, on account of increasing household expenses in order to ensure their children can receive a proper education and live with greater comforts and opportunities.

But if more children are not born, China will struggle to keep its economy vibrant. Despite the sacrifices, raising more children can be beneficial to the parents and the country in the long-term.

So on the first year of the second child policy, China's National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), announced 17.86 million births in the country, which is a rise of 7.9 percent from prior year.

Down cycle in births returns

But the good news did not last. The NHFPC reported that in 2017, there were only 17.23 million births nationwide, a 3.5 percent drop from the previous year.

The statistics were surprising, but there are fewer married couples who are of child-bearing age. The Chinese Association of Social Security had issued a report last year forecasting there will be more than 400 million elderly Chinese by 2035.

China and much of Asia are facing demographics time bomb, unless more measures are taken to reverse trends. The Japanese government has pledged to offer parents a stipend for raising more children.

Additionally, Japanese mothers receive 100,000 yen (US$940) or more when giving birth to a child. The subsidy increases when the family has even more children in the household.

Nonetheless, Japan’s birth rate in 2015 stood at 1.46 per woman, one of the lowest in the world, even though Tokyo offers generous incentives for families.

Some experts are saying the Chinese government may eventually offer subsidies for would-be mothers, but will it be inspirational enough?

Money not enough for parents

A Singaporean doctor, Dr. Yu Wei Siang, and IVF specialist and chairman of Borderless Healthcare Group (BHG), a Shanghai-based healthcare technology company, hosted a press conference in Shanghai last Tuesday (Jan. 30) to introduce his BHG clinic to the public.

BHG Clinic IVF doctor specialists standing with blue chromosome character in the middle. From left to right: Dr Mun Yew Wong from Singapore, Dr Wei Siang Yu (founder and chairman of BHG Clinic), Dr Kenneth Leong from Melbourne, AustraliaBHG Clinic IVF doctor specialists standing with blue chromosome character in the middle. From left to right: Dr Mun Yew Wong from Singapore, Dr Wei Siang Yu (founder and chairman of BHG Clinic), Dr Kenneth Leong from Melbourne, Australia

He touted China's second child policy and supports efforts by Beijing to increase higher birth rates in the country.

But when addressing the concept of government subsidies for parents, "That's not enough, just take a look at all the other countries in Asia that are providing money to families to raise children," he said. "The child birth rates are still low and that includes my native home - Singapore."

Dr. Wei realizes that many cultural issues are at play that inhibit Chinese parents from trying to have a second-child. The writer was invited to meet Dr. Wei and his team of IVF (invitro-fertilization) doctors at the BHG clinic in Shanghai last week.

When asked to delve more deeply on societal issues, all doctors along with Dr. Wei have concluded that the government, the media, private companies and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) must tackle common concerns in order to inspire families to raise a higher number of children.

Showtime for aspiring parents

Dr. Wei and his team have embarked on an intriguing concept to boost child births in China. They believe that producing a new reality TV show can get Chinese people talking about making babies.

"My mission in life is to help the sperm meet the egg," said Dr. Wei. "That's why I’m known as the 'Love Doctor' in Singapore."

He's right, in 2005, he launched a nightly TV show, 'Love Airways' that encouraged more young couple to give birth to babies. He played the role as "love guru" and delivered advice to couples on bedroom matters.

The TV show was an instant hit in Singapore and Dr. Wei has just introduced a new video series, produced in Chinese-language, called 'Fertility UFO Show.'

The video series, scheduled to run for 10 episodes, will feature different Chinese married couples who have one child already and are considering having another. The show will highlight the challenges couples face in efforts to make another baby.

But will the show be a hit and connect with Chinese viewers? Well that remains to be seen, but BHG has already signed deals with Chinese video streamlining companies, such as Baidu, Sohu and Youku and in talks with local TV networks to air future episodes.

Keeping hope alive for parents

Encouraging more Chinese families to give birth to and raise more children would be no easy task. But when the government, healthcare providers and private companies, especially media outlets are working together, hope is on the horizon that we will see more children born in China in the years ahead.

Tmcgregorchina@yahoo.com

(The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com)

 

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