Chinese govt work report realizes birth rate has 'fallen short of expectations,' birth restrictions expected to be fully lifted in 5 years
Published: Mar 05, 2021 02:03 PM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Chinese government work report, for the first time in recent years, mentioned working to achieve an appropriate birth rate, which experts believe indicates that the government is concerned that the birth rate has fallen short of expectations amid the critical window of adjusting China's family planning policy. Experts said China is expected to lift all birth restrictions in the next five years. 

During the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) period, China will implement the national strategy for addressing population aging and improving the population services system with a focus on aged care and childcare. 

"We will work to achieve an appropriate birth rate. The statutory retirement age will be raised in a phased manner," the 2021 government work report said on Friday. 

The report was delivered by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday to the opening of the annual session of the National People's Congress, China's top legislative body.

China's government work report in 2020 did not mention any terms relating to birth rates or family planning, and the appropriate birth rate was not mentioned in any government work report in the past five years. 

Chinese demographers said that China's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) period is a critical window for adjusting its family planning policy, facing challenges of worsening aging population problems, continuing low birth rate and shrinking of the working-age population, and the government will come up with more preferential policies for elderly people, women at childbearing age and infants, to slow the declining birth rate. 

"China's family planning policy is fading out, and it's expected that the sixth plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee this autumn may witness the further lift of birth restrictions," He Yafu, an independent demographer, told the Global Times on Friday. 

Huang Wenzheng, a demography expert and senior researcher from the Center for China and Globalization think tank, said that China is likely to lift all birth restrictions in the next five years. 

As for the appropriate birth rate China will work to achieve, Lu Jiehua, a professor of demographics at Peking University, told the Global Times on Friday that the total fertility rate (the average number of children a woman gives birth to) should remain at about 2.1 for China's population to stay stable, but so far China is unlikely to reach that, and it may aim to improve to around 1.8 in the next five years. 

The birth rate on the Chinese mainland dropped to 10.48 per 1,000 people in 2019, the lowest in seven decades, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The statistics of 2020's birth rate has not been released, but according to statistics released by several cities, including Wenzhou in East China's Zhejiang Province and Guangzhou in South China's Guangdong Province, the number of newborn babies in 2020 hit a new low in the past six to 10 years.

Lu warned that China's total population will soon start to decline, ending a long trend of growth, estimating that that time may come before 2027. 

During this year's two sessions, several lawmakers and political advisors said it is imperative to further relax the family planning policy by allowing Chinese couples to have a third child.