Once busy curbing its population, China is rushing to make more babies.
The country recorded 18.46 million live births in 2016, leading to “the largest annual number of newborns since 2000,” according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) on Saturday (March. 11), which attributed the increase in fertility to China’s two-child policy that came into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.
For nearly four decades, China penalized many couples who had more than one child (there were exceptions carved out in some cases, including for certain minorities). In 2013, China allowed married couples, if one of them was an only child, to have two children. Then China loosened the restrictions further and allowed all couples to have two children—but no more.
China is hoping to address social and economic problems created by its family-planning policies—a shrinking working-age population could threaten its economic development and a huge gender imbalance that has made it hard for many men to get married.
In order to further boost the birth rate, officials have suggested financial incentives could be on the way. Chinese finance minister Xiao Jie said (link in Chinese) on March 7 that the country was considering a tax deduction for education costs for a second child. In February, Wang Peian, vice-minister of NHFPC also said that China was considering “birth rewards and subsidies” to help encourage parents to have a second child.
Not everyone is impressed, though. “So we will have to give birth whenever the government wants, and get ligated whenever the government asks, are you playing us like a fool while calling what you do a ‘national policy,'” commented (link in Chinese) a user on Weibo, a popular social media platform in China.