The local government of the southwestern Chinese province announced a relaxation of childbearing laws earlier this week. It was announced that unmarried people will now be allowed to have kids of their own.
The government will provide the same benefits to single individuals as to married couples for birth care.
With effect from Feb. 15, any married couple or unmarried individual who wants offspring will be able to register with the Sichuan government; there is no limit to the number of children a couple or an individual may have.
There was an earlier rule that covered only married people who wanted to have children legally, allowing them to give birth. But in light of record low marriage and birth rates in recent years, provincial authorities updated their 2019 rule to cover unmarried individuals who wish to have children.
The health commission of China’s fifth-most populous province said in a statement that the objective of the measure is to foster balanced and long-term population development.
The commission previously allowed only married couples with up to two children to register with local authorities.
A national registry system enables couples to register with local authorities to obtain medical insurance and keep their salaries while on maternity leave.
Struggles of unmarried individuals in China
Having kids without getting married is still considered a social taboo in most Asian societies, and China is no exception. Individuals who decide to embrace parenthood without getting married receive no medical and social benefits from the government and are looked down upon by society.
Although the national family planning policy of the nation does not categorically forbid unmarried women from having kids, it does describe a mother as a married woman.
Families with new babies are offered cash bonuses by villages.
The maternity leave period has been extended in several cities, as well as an additional month for second- and third-time mothers.
“Parenting breaks” have been created for young married couples in some cities and provinces.
Medical insurance and education are some of the most difficult social benefits to obtain for babies born to single parents in China. Public health care and maternity leave insurance are routinely denied to pregnant single women. A single pregnant employee is not legally protected if their employer fires them.
Several provincial authorities did not grant hukou, or household registration, to the children of single mothers, which is similar to a social security number that allows access to a school and other services, such as health care. As a penalty for violating family planning laws, some provinces have imposed a “social support” fee on single mothers, usually several hundred dollars.
Although these discriminatory laws are being abolished in some cities, the trajectory of progress is still very low.
China’s population decline
For the first time in six decades, Chinese population shrank last year, heralding an epoch of decline. Authorities are rolling out birth-care incentives and measures in light of the population decline.
Across China, new incentives are being announced for childbirth. The cities of Shenzhen, Jinan, and Yichang recently announced cash incentives for couples with children.
These measures are aimed at boosting the birth rate in the country. The birth rate in China has reached a record low – 6.77 births per 1,000 people for the first time in 60 years.
Considering the costs associated with raising children in the city, most Chinese couples are reluctant to have children.
In the years between 1980 and 2015, China’s one-child policy contributed substantially to its demographic decline.