© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Children at a playground at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China, June 1, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song
By David Stanway
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The cost of raising a child in China is nearly seven times GDP per capita, far more than in the United States and Japan, highlighting the challenges Chinese policymakers face in addressing rapidly declining birth rates, new research showed.
Experts warn that China’s aging population will put enormous pressure on its health and social security system, while a dwindling workforce could also severely limit the growth of the world’s second-largest economy in the coming decades.
Although new policies allow families to have as many as three children, the birth rate in China fell to 7.52 births per 1,000 people in 2021, the lowest since the National Bureau of Statistics began recording the data in 1949.
The skyrocketing cost of raising children has led Beijing to crack down on the private tutoring industry, while some regions have given couples cash for having a second or third child.
The Beijing-based YuWa Population Research Institute said in a report published Tuesday that the average cost of raising a child under 18 in China in 2019 was 485,000 yuan ($76,629) for a first child, 6.9 times China’s GDP. per capita that year.
China ranks second among the 13 countries included in the study, after only South Korea, which has the lowest birth rate in the world. The figure for the US, based on data from 2015, was 4.11 times GDP per capita, while the figure for Japan, based on data from 2010 was 4.26.
The cost of raising children is even higher in China’s major cities, reaching over 1 million yuan in Shanghai and 969,000 yuan in Beijing. Birth rates in the two cities are even lower than the national average.
Writing under the username “Maning” on the Chinese Twitter-like microblog Weibo (NASDAQ:) , one mother said she thought parenting costs in Beijing were likely even higher than the report suggested.
“With calculations like that, I can hardly imagine a second child and any family that wants a third is just wonderful,” she said.
YuWa warned that the declining birth rate will “deeply affect” China’s economic growth potential, innovation capacity and wealth burden.
China should spend at least 5% of its annual GDP to encourage couples to have more children, including education subsidies, preferential mortgage rates, tax breaks, equal paternity and maternity leave, as well as building more childcare centers, it added.
On Weibo, another user writing under the name Attorney Zhang said action should be taken to address the disproportionate burden faced by women who are expected to give birth and raise children as part of their natural “motherhood.”
“That’s why the costs of childbirth are largely borne by women, leaving women living in an unfair competitive environment for a long time.”
($1 = 6.3292 yuan)
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