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October 31, 2015

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Shanghai’s cash-strapped, weary parents say no thanks to 2nd child

THE changes to China’s family planning regulations are unlikely to result in a baby boom in Shanghai, a local expert said yesterday.

Zhang Zhen, a professor at Fudan University who specializes in demographics, said that based on his research, “most couples simply haven’t thought about having a second child.”

As well as the financial implications, they worry about the broader social issues associated with expanding their families, he said.

“Many people are also concerned about the state of the social security system,” he said, adding that if the policy change “is not effective (in boosting the birth rate), the government must consider introducing measures to alleviate those concerns.”

Local woman Gao Shanshan, 32, who has a 4-year-old son, said she and her husband are not planning to have a second child any time soon.

“I’m worried about money. I would love to spend time with two children at home, but I can’t afford not to work, as that would put too much financial pressure on my husband,” she said.

Linda Wang, a 28-year-old mother of a 9-month-old baby, said she too would like a second child, but she doubts if she and her husband could cope.

“My mother takes care of the baby during the day while we’re at work, then we take over when we get home,” she said.

“I fear we wouldn’t have enough hands to look after two children,” she said.

According to a recent report by the Shanghai Women’s Federation, 54 percent of married women under 45 have no plans to have a second child, while just 15 percent said they did.

Of those who said they didn’t want a bigger family, 60 percent cited the cost of child-rearing as the main deterrent, while 30 percent said they feared they would be unable to cope physically with two children.

According to figures from the Shanghai Statistics Bureau, the population of native Shanghainese has been falling steadily since 1995. In 2013, the total fell by 7,800, it said.

As is the case across China, this has resulted in an aging population and a reduction in the number of people of working age.

“The dwindling workforce increases the burden on young people,” said Yin Chen, a professor at Fudan University who specializes in demographics.

“This will have a detrimental impact on the development of society as a whole,” he said.

Despite the apparent lack of enthusiasm among young couples for having more babies, the Shanghai Health and Family Planning Commission said it has already begun preparing for an increase in births.

“Medical resources in the fields of obstetrics and pediatrics will be enhanced to meet the demand,” an official said.

Several measures to increase capacity were introduced last year after a relaxation in family planning rules allowed couples in which one partner is an only child to have a second baby.

Between March and September last year, 29,800 eligible couples were approved for the scheme, of which nearly 15,000 couples have since had a second baby, the commission said.


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