Falling birth rates and infant deaths


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.


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