Amid the shrinking birth rate, some Chinese provinces are giving young newlyweds 30 days of paid leaves to encourage young marriage and boost a flagging birth rate.
The move aligns with the government’s recent efforts to encourage families to have more children, including expanding maternity leave, tax deductions, and extra money for a third child. But the decline in fertility is still a significant concern for many, experts say, especially given China’s demographic challenges.
Fertility rates in China fell to a historic low last year, a decline that experts believe is likely to continue. It comes as the country grapples with a population aging problem, a labor shortage, and an aging workforce.
Some Chinese officials have suggested several factors behind the falling birth rate, including a rising cost of living and an increasing preference among highly educated urban dwellers to focus on career advancement rather than having children. However, others have said that a lack of effective policies to support families and children has exacerbated the problem.
Reuters reports that some Chinese provinces, including the northwestern Gansu and coal-producing Shanxi provinces, are giving young newlyweds up to 30 days of paid marriage leave. Previously, the minimum paid marital vacation period was three days; however, since February, provinces have been able to set their own more generous allowances, according to Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily Health.
“Extending marriage leave is one of the effective ways of increasing the fertility rate,” Yang Haiyang, dean of the Social Development Research Institute of Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, was quoted as saying by Reuters. However, he also said that the government should encourage new parents to have children and provide other supporting policies, such as housing subsidies and paid paternity leave for men.
It is not the first time the government has tried to boost its declining birth rate, but it is an unusual approach. In October 2022, President Xi Jinping prioritized boosting birth rates for his administration.
But some demographers argue that China has several characteristics that make it likely that its birth rates will fall short of its stated intentions. These include many urban citizens in their reproductive prime and high living costs that limit people’s ability to have a second child.
These trends are also accompanied by a shift in attitudes towards parenthood among younger generations, which has caused an increase in fertility postponement.
As a result, China’s birth rate is below what demographers call its fertility replacement rate, which is needed for the country to grow. In addition, the population is aging faster than expected, and its workforce is decreasing, experts say.
The Chinese government has taken numerous measures to encourage family planning, but the decline in birth rates is unlikely to reverse soon. The economy is expected to slow down in the coming years, and China’s aging population will become a severe problem. It must address these issues before it can meet its economic and employment goals.