After the country’s population fell for the first time in six decades last year, members of China’s top political advisory body are pushing for a number of proposals to increase the birth rate, including equal rights for unmarried women and free college education.
The suggestions are made in advance of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which begins on March 4. There are many similarities between the once-a-year gathering and the National People’s Congress (NPC), where President Xi Jinping will appoint a new leadership team.
This week, a member of China’s top political advisory body, Xie Wenmin, told the state-backed Global Times that restrictions on marital status used to register newborns should be removed so that unmarried women can use fertility services like married women.
Only married women are permitted to legally have children under current government rules. However, in February, some provinces, such as Sichuan in the southwest of China, began permitting single individuals to have children.
As a means of increasing the population of the country, the Chinese government is under pressure to provide housing
subsidies, extend maternity leave, and other financial and tax benefits for having children.
Gan Huatian, a member of the CPPCC, made the proposal on March 1 to increase paternity leave in order to encourage men to share parenting responsibilities.
Zhao Dongling, a delegate to the CPPCC, stated on Thursday that families with three children who are born after 2024 should be eligible for free higher education. This proposal was one of the topics that got the most attention on the Chinese social media platform Weibo.
Historical and cultural context of women’s rights in China
In 2002, the city of Jilin in northeastern China, which has one of the lowest birth rates in the country, changed its regulations to allow single women access to in vitro fertilization (IVF). According to the National Health Commission, IVF is still illegal in all 50 states, so the change had little effect.
This week, Lu Weiying, a member of China’s highest political advisory body, told the Global Times that she would like to see treatments for infertility included in the public health insurance system and that women who are not married should be able to freeze their eggs to keep their fertility.
Unmarried women in China are currently prohibited from participating in IVF or egg freezing.
After the country’s population fell for the first time in six decades, a member of China’s highest political advisory body stated last year that she would propose granting unmarried women access to egg freezing as a means of preserving their fertility.
At the upcoming Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which begins on March 4, a member of China’s top political advisory body, Lu Weiying, told the state-backed Global Times that she would also propose including infertility treatments in the public health insurance system.
In China, treatments for infertility like freezing eggs and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are currently illegal for women who are not married.
In an effort to boost the declining birth rate, the government is providing incentives such as more paid maternity leave, financial and tax benefits for having children, and housing subsidies. The suggestions from Lu arrive now.
The birth rate in China fell to a record low of 6.77 births for every 1,000 people. To increase birth rates, a number of provinces have already altered their regulations. One of China’s lowest birth rates is in Jilin, a city in the northeast.
In 2002, the city’s regulations were changed to allow IVF for single women. However, the National Health Commission still prohibits it, so the change had little effect.