context: Birth policy adjustments are expected following changes to the 14th 5-year-plan, but experts are disappointed that some birth restrictions remain. Consistent with past commentaries, they continue to emphasise birth support.

A Politburo meeting on 31 May 2021 discussed demographic issues, reports Xinhua, including

  • implementing gradual retirement delay, national pooling of pensions, aged care improvements and adaptation to an ageing society
  • allowing every couple to bear three children (‘three-child policy’)
  • implementing support policies, including
    • enhancing guidance on people’s attitudes towards marriage and families
    • developing affordable preschool education, promoting education equality and lowering costs
    • improving social security for births and safeguarding women’s employment

The 7th national census revealed that the total fertility rate has fallen to 1.3. Internationally, it is recognised that recovery from a total fertility rate below 1.5 is difficult, notes Caijing. Adjusting birth policies is hence imperative. Lu Jiehua 陆杰华 Peking University professor expects the three-child policy to materialise before end 2021, reports Caixin. But its effectiveness is questionable. Liang Jianzhang 梁建章 frequent demographic commentator thinks the total fertility rate will not increase by more than 0.1.

Many experts argue that low birth rates are no longer caused by birth restrictions, but the lack of birth support. The three-child policy shows that authorities are still mired in the logic of family planning, Liang Zhongtang 梁中堂 former National Expert Committee on Family Planning member told China News Weekly. Low birth rates are the result of people’s unwillingness to marry and have children. Thus, not only should all restrictions be abolished, but government funding should also go to policies providing support. These policies will be the same as those described in the 14th 5-year-plan, Wang Guangzhou 王广州 Chinese Academy of Social Sciences researcher points out, in that they focus on reducing the costs of child bearing, rearing and education by implementing parental leave and improving preschool education.