, BEIJING, China, Oct 30 – Chinese citizens greeted the announcement of a “two-child” policy warily Friday, as high costs, career aspirations and rising urbanisation in an increasingly wealthy society mute expectations of a baby boom after the historic change.
China’s previous “one-child” family planning regime, which Beijing announced Thursday would end after some four decades, has seen arbitrary and often brutal enforcement, including forced abortions and sterilisation of some.
Most families were restricted to only one offspring, but various exemptions applied, and violators who could afford to pay the fines were able to have a second child, or even more.
The plan was supposed to save China from a looming population explosion, but now it contributes to a greying of society that will exacerbate labour shortages as the world’s second-largest economy fights to maintain growth.
The policy is thought to have prevented an estimated 400 million births in the world’s most populous country, where 1.37 billion people live today.
Chinese media Friday portrayed the decision to loosen the policy as a victory for both the economy and the people, who have long expressed anger at the controversial policy and its myriad abuses.
“The new Five-year Plan should be regarded as a triumph of the people’s will, as many policies have echoed long-term appeals,” the Global Times, a paper close to the government, wrote following the announcement.
But the change may have been too little too late as many young Chinese, who grew up as single children, see more costs than benefits in having a second child.
The announcement was met with a collective shrug by social media users, with the topic in eighth place among trending topics on popular micro-blog site Sina Weibo – well behind other entertainment news.
The site’s users were far more interested in celebrity actress Angelababy, who held the number one spot, than making their own.
A survey of more than 150,000 people on Chinese media site Sina Friday morning found that less than 30 percent of respondents would have a second child.
The sentiment was widely echoed by social media users, who questioned whether one was truly the loneliest number.
While once there may have been pent up demand for more children, experts say that as the country has grown wealthier, couples have increasingly delayed having even one child as they devote more time to other goals, such as building their careers.
Now commentators on popular social media platform Sina Weibo say that even if they wanted a child, they could not afford one.
“The country doesn’t give any financial support,” said one post among many that lamented the costs of having two children.
“Apartments are so expensive, now. Who can afford to give birth?”
Making more children clearly isn’t the solution to China’s economic problems, another comment said, adding that instead “maybe we should be working.