Chinese Authorities Support Scrapping Birth Limits in Depopulated Region

Zhang Chaoyan Ye Ruolin:

China’s top population control authority may be moving toward loosening birth restrictions imposed under the country’s current two-child policy.

The National Health Commission said Thursday that China’s northeastern region, which includes the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning, should analyze its policies — and if necessary, rethink them.

“Based on that (research), Northeast China can introduce comprehensive fertility policies on a trial basis,” the commission wrote in response to a proposal by a delegate from the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislative body.

The northeastern region has some of the lowest fertility rates in the country. In 2019, the three provinces reported birth rates ranging from 5.7 to 6.5 newborns per 1,000 people — well below the national figure of 10.48, already the lowest birth rate since the People’s Republic of China was founded 70 years ago. The region’s abysmal fertility rates are partly due to slow economic development, experts say: Many young people leave their hometowns to go work in bigger, more developed cities.

“The northeastern economy is not booming,” said a demographer at a health commission office in a northeastern Chinese city who agreed to speak to Sixth Tone on condition of anonymity. “Even those who graduate from local colleges don’t stay, but head south. When the people of childbearing age are gone, there are naturally fewer newborns.” He said the region’s current birth rate is one-third as high as in the 1960s, when China’s population was just half what it is now.