Modest subsidies less likely to boost birthrate

Updated: Jun 16, 2022 China Daily Print
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The distribution of subsidies to help couples raise children is not expected to have a marked impact on encouraging births among college students, according to a recent survey.

Instead, boosting nursery care services and offering housing subsidies could play a larger role in raising students' willingness to have children, according to the questionnaire-based survey released by researchers from the Population Development Studies Center at the Renmin University of China in April.

Since May last year, when all couples were allowed to have three children-up from two-a growing number of local authorities have started rolling out supportive policies, including housing discounts and longer maternity leave.

For example, in July last year, Panzhihua, a city in the southwestern province of Sichuan, said that parents would be able to claim a monthly allowance of 500 yuan ($75) per child for a second or third baby up to the age of 3.

Linze county in Northwest China's Gansu province said families with two children will be eligible to receive 5,000 yuan a year, while those with three children will be given 10,000 yuan per annum until the youngest child's third birthday.

Wang Donghui, a professor at the center who was involved in the research, said the results show that college students seem indifferent to annual subsidies designated for families with children age 3 and younger.

"A potential explanation of the weak appeal of allowances for raising children is that in our survey, the subsidies were too low (ranging from 500 to 5,000 yuan per baby per year), thus not high enough to address students' financial concerns," she said.

"In their eyes, it's like giving a 5 yuan coupon to someone planning to buy a Ferrari."

By comparison, she said measures aimed at boosting the provision of affordable and high-quality nursery care services, relieving the pressure of buying homes and easing the burden of raising a child are much more effective ways of motivating college students to have larger families in the future.

"These results also suggest that policymakers should be more considerate when deciding on the amount of fertility subsidies," she said.

Experts suggested that local governments should adjust the size of fertility subsidies.

Lyu Hongping, a demographics researcher at Hebei University in Baoding, said provincial and national level authorities should encourage local governments to raise subsidies according to their finances, but they should also set a maximum amount to rein in irregularities.

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