Liaoning Province plans to reward couples for having two children

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/9 19:18:39

Northeast China's Liaoning Province plans to reward couples who give birth to two children on taxes, education and housing - the first province to introduce such incentives. But it seems unlikely to improve the province's low fertility rate, analysts said.

To lighten the load of raising children, the provincial government vowed to improve policies on personal taxes, education, social welfare and housing to provide more incentives to a family of four, according to the provincial population development plan (2016-30) issued by the Liaoning government last week. No details on the incentives were provided.

Local governments have also been asked to improve maternity and paternity leaves, and policies on infant care, such as establishing more kindergartens. Families with one or two children need not apply.

The plan sets a provincial population goal of 43.85 million in 2020 and 45 million in 2030 from 43.82 million in 2015, and the fertility rate from 0.9 in 2015 to 1.4 in 2020 and 1.8 in 2030. The fertility rate of China was 1.7 in 2016, according to the National Health Commission.

However, experts said the plan cannot help Liaoning increase its population, and that the province has to reform its industries and improve its economy.

"The plan is more like 'a castle in the air,' which will unlikely reach its goals," Huang Wenzheng, an expert on demographics, told the Global Times.

Liaoning's fertility rate may remain at 0.9 for the next 10 years, and may even drop due to the continuing lack of interest among people of childbearing age, Huang said.

A survey conducted by the All-China Women's Federation and Beijing Normal University in 2016 shows that 53 percent of families of three preferred not to have a second child, with only 20 percent open to a second child. 

"The depletion of labor in Northeast China, including Liaoning, has also contributed to the low fertility rate," Huang said.

China's northeast, including Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning provinces, has lost more than a million people in the last 10 years, according to data from the National Development and Reform Commission in 2016.

Northeast China was the country's industrial heartland prior to the 1990s. But the three provinces have been plagued by slow economic growth, and some companies are on the brink of bankruptcy.

Cong Yi, an economics professor at the Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times that improving its economy would trigger a population increase.

Liaoning relied on heavy industry, which made it difficult to upgrade, and the government's tight controls stunted the market, Cong said.

He said the local government should provide a clear economic direction and offer more attractive incentives to talented people.

Several Asian and European countries also face the challenge of low fertility rates, and Liaoning could learn from countries like Russia to come up with effective policies, Huang said.

Russia provides generous subsidies to women who give birth, such as granting them a maternity leave of up to three years, Huang explained.

He said Liaoning could provide free pre-school education.

Newspaper headline: Liaoning to reward bigger families

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