Comprehensive measures to encourage more births were rolled out on Tuesday to boost China's population growth and address the challenges posed by falling fertility rates and an increasing number of aging people.
Seventeen government departments — including the National Health Commission, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development — released a guideline on Tuesday to boost fertility across the country.
The new guideline will implement the national policy of allowing all couples to have three children, up from two, which was released in May last year.
The guideline said more supportive measures will be provided in matters such as insurance, housing, education, employment and tax deductions. The aim is to create a friendly atmosphere to raise children in order to reach balanced population development.
All counties, cities and provinces are required to set up at least one government-funded maternity and child care institution to improve the welfare of pregnant women and newborn babies.
More low-cost nursing services will also be provided. Tailored campaigns to build more cheaper nursery services, such as day care and kindergartens, are being promoted. This would include public-funded services and the private facilities that receive public funding.
Employers are encouraged to offer employees child care services as a work benefit. Kindergartens are encouraged to admit younger children who are from 2 to 3 years old. Kindergartens in China normally admit children older than age 3.
The maternity leave system is being improved across the country, helping employees balance work and family, as well as promoting fair employment and career development.
The State will draw up a maternity insurance payment policy to ensure the safety of the maternity fund. Unemployed women can enjoy maternity medical care by participating in basic medical insurance for urban and rural residents.
Beneficial housing policies are being offered to families with more children. For example, cities are encouraged to raise the amount of housing loans with lower interest rates to those families. Each region is being encouraged to explore beneficial leasing and housing policies to families with more children.
The guideline requires implementation of additional deductions for personal income tax on the cost of caring for infants and children younger than 3 years old. It also establishes an incentive mechanism for employers to protect the maternity rights and interests of employees in accordance with the law. Financial support will be increased to enterprises, including those providing maternal and child care services and related vocational training.
Workplaces are encouraged to have a flexible working system. Employers can discuss with employees ways of creating a flexible working mechanism, such as a work-from-home system, to help employees solve difficulties in child care, including sending and picking up children from schools and taking care of sick and young children.
Employers, schools, communities and social organizations are encouraged to offer child care services during the summer and winter vacations.
The National Health Commission said earlier this month that China's population growth is set to turn negative by 2025 as the population growth rate has slowed down in the past few years.
Official data shows that last year, the total population of China grew by 480,000, the lowest growth rate in the past six decades. Local data shows that at least 11 of the 31 provincial-level regions in the Chinese mainland already experienced negative population growth last year, mostly in Northeast, Northwest and Central China.
"The fertility level has been falling continuously, with the overall fertility rate — the average number of children born to each woman of reproductive age — dropping to below 1.3 in recent years," the commission said in a recent article. "A low fertility rate will become the primary risk to China's balanced population development."
A survey in April showed that boosting nursery services and offering housing subsidies could play a larger role in boosting the willingness of college students to have children.
Experts suggested that local governments adjust the size of fertility subsidies.
Lyu Hongping, a demographics researcher at Hebei University in Baoding, Hebei province, said provincial and national level authorities should encourage local governments to raise subsidies according to their financial situation, but they should also set a maximum amount to rein in irregularities.