China, the world’s most populous country, is asking couples to have more children after ending its one-child policy three years ago—but to little avail.
Following decades of trying to control population growth, the East Asian country is now instilling in women and their partners to “have children for the country.” But the new government slogans have drawn criticism among social media users who call the measure “intrusive and insensitive,” according to a report by the BBC.
For years, China has enjoyed a buoyant economy thanks to a booming population, which in turn has created an active workforce. But in order for the world’s second-largest economy to maintain its steady growth and support its aging population, the government has encouraged couples to have a second child by providing cash incentives or tax breaks ever since it removed the one-child policy in 2015, BBC reported. Beijing is discussing whether it will extend maternity leave and remove limits on the number of children a family can have.
According to data from China’s National Statistics Bureau, there were 17.8 million births in 2016 and the population grew 1.31 million. But in 2017, two years after the removal of the one-child policy was expected to yield results, the country experienced a decline of 630,000 births compared to the year prior. The BBC found that the birth rate will continue to dwindle from 2018 onward, and the number of women ages 23 to 30 will also decrease by 40 percent.
The reasons for China’s decrease in its birth rate include the fact that children who were raised during the one-child policy years, which was established in 1979, are wealthier than their parents and are marrying late—or not getting married at all, according to the British broadcaster. This new generation is also focusing on career goals, and many don’t want to deal with the normal obligations of having a family, such as paying mortgage or childcare services.
China is not the only country experiencing declining birth rates. On average, women across the world have 2.4 children in their lifetime, in a measure labeled as total fertility rate, The Guardian reported. Even though countries like Niger have experienced higher fertility rates—more than seven per lifetime—the figure in half of the world’s countries, including Russia, U.K. and Japan, have dropped below two.
Experts said that countries do not need a booming population because they’re increasingly relying on artificial intelligence, growing migration and a healthy aging population. “This idea that you need lots and lots of people to defend your country and to grow your country economically, that is really old thinking,” Sarah Harper, an expert on population change, told the British publication.
China’s one-child policy was established by then-Chinese leader Xiaoping in a bid to ensure China’s economic growth. However, this policy had a preference for male children, leading to female infanticide. As a result, the policy created a gender imbalance of an estimated 30 million men.