China’s families deciding to have more children face difficult choices

World Today

China is facing an ageing population and a decline in fertility. But many Chinese families are still hesitating over having a second or even more babies. To find out the pros and cons of larger households, CGTN visited two typical families that already have more than two children.

Xiao Na already had a three-year-old son when she learned she was expecting twins.

“At first, there was no plan to have these babies, and their arrival was an accident,” said Xiao Na. “We originally planned to add one child when our first was about five years old so he wouldn’t be lonely. Nothing’s better than giving him more family members in this world.”

When Xiao knew two new lives were on the way, she quit her job because she didn’t feel able to cope with the frequent overtime it required. She now owns her own clothing store, a job that enbles her to spend more time with her family.

“The biggest concern I had about the two newborns was the increase of energy needed,” she said. “Neither my husband nor I have siblings, so we have to take care of our four parents as well as our three children. It’s a lot of pressure.

Just a few blocks away, Meng Lixin, the mother of two school-aged children, has been through similar hard times. Apart from the sacrifices in time, spiritual efforts and career, money is also an indispensable — perhaps even the most important – consideration in whether to have another child. Meng and Xiao have calculated the costs of raising children.

For an infant or child below school age, the annual expenditure amounts to about 150,000 yuan, most of which goes to daycare fees. School-aged children cost about 200,000 yuan a year, of which education takes the largest share. For every extra child, these numbers will multiply.

“Education is expensive,” said insurance saleswoman Meng Lixin. “We don’t really have a choice. School tests are much harder than what our children are prepared for in class. They’ll soon fall behind their classmates if they don’t have extra-curricular courses.”

“If the state invested more in education, the pressure on families would be reduced,” Meng’s husband, Shi Liping said.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows there were 17 million births in China last year. That’s a decrease of 630,000 from 2016. Fertility rates first started dropping in the 1980s after the one-child policy was introduced but is still an issue now larger families are an option.

“The fertility rate is falling because of the current pressures from education, pension, housing prices–all kinds of pressures are squeezing this generation,” said Meng Lixin. “They are too stressed to have more energy for children.”

Many local governments introduced measures to encourage people to have more babies, such as longer maternity leave and better healthcare. In Beijing, many private kindergartens were made public, and preschool education expenses cut by up to 70 percent.

But a family’s fertility rate should be its own choice. If Xiao and Meng can raise more than two children, others should have the right to choose whether or not to have more as well.

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