Falling birth rates and infant deaths | Top News | SupChina

Falling birth rates and infant deaths

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Caixin reports that 630,000 fewer babies were born in China in 2017 than the year before, despite the loosening of the one-child policy.

  • In the first year of the government allowing most couples to have a second child — 2016 — there were 17.86 million births, 1.31 million more than in 2015, but this still fell short of official predictions of 18 million newborns.
  • Many observers had anticipated that the changes to family planning policies would not have a dramatic effect on birth rates — listen to this Sinica Podcast with Mei Fong, the author of One Child. Some scholars believe the birth rate will actually decline in coming years.
  • Education and housing are expensive, which Caixin says is one reason why many couples “aren’t embracing the idea of increasing their family size.”

Why is this a problem? Because China is probably going to get old before it gets rich — this will cause a shortage of labor, and burden the government and its citizens with rapidly growing costs of elderly care.

  • Earlier this week at our Next China conference in New York, Roberta Lipson, founder of the United Family Healthcare chain of private hospitals, pointed out the striking growth of the 65+ age group in China: they make up 7 percent of the population now, but this may more than triple to 22% by 2050.
  • Roberta also noted that maternity wards at her own hospitals were busy in 2017, which she attributes to the relaxation of the one-child policy. United Family Healthcare hospitals are not cheap, so this demographic is not representative.
  • However, 2017 was also “a really bad year for infant death,” because many older mothers wanted another child, and hospitals had no experience with second births.
  • For a feminist take on the falling birthrate, see this Twitter thread by Leta Hong Fincher.

THIS WEEK’S NOTEWORTHY NEWS:

  1. Corporate VPNs get the squeeze
    China’s war on VPNs might be heating up. The censors are not just going after software that consumers use to hop over the Great Firewall — companies are now complaining that their connections to the global internet are being throttled in China.
  2. Report: China to ban tattoos and ‘hip-hop culture’ from TV shows
    China’s war on hip-hop is also heating up. China’s top media regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People’s Republic of China (SAPPRFT), reportedly announced on January 19 new regulations that order all TV shows to stop inviting entertainers with tattoos or using any elements from hip-hop culture, subculture (non-mainstream culture), and demotivational culture.
  3. China goes after Taiwanese nationalism
    China is punishing companies, both western and Taiwanese, for language that treats Taiwan as an independent country. But as described in the link above, the campaign goes far beyond just words.
    Today, hotel chain Marriott, still reeling from its app and website being blocked in mainland China over a listing of Taiwan as a “country,” clarified to the Verge that it had not been ordered by the Chinese government to stop posting on social media. Most of its channels had gone conspicuously silent after the January 10 block. “We proactively suspended some of the activity as we were reviewing our content strategy,” the company’s statement said.
    Meanwhile, a spat over commercial flight routes in the Taiwan strait continues, as Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration rejected the request of China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Air to operate 176 additional flights there, Channel NewsAsia reports.
Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn is co-founder of the Sinica Podcast and currently edits SupChina and its daily newsletter.