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(2021) Tackling Low Birth Rates

A low birth rate means low fertility and an aging population, a situation that is accelerating in China. China's aging population and low birth rates are expected to remain stable in the next 30 years. All of the panellists noted that a high level of economic development, a highly competitive social environment, the rising cost of childbirth, and the social security system are the main factors contributing to low birth rates.

Affected by the above factors, the number of women of childbearing age in China is decreasing, leading to a constant drop in the number of new-borns. Although it is almost impossible to completely reverse low birth rates, all of the panellists agreed that their negative impacts can be mitigated through policy incentives.

Improving social security benefits is an important starting point, and the first element is emphasizing and improving child welfare. China's Civil Code and the amended Law on the Protection of Minors reflect that China, at its current stage, has started to pay attention to child welfare. However, to better cope with the problem of low birth rates, Wang Jiexiu said the child protection system will be improved in three respects: top-level design, the scope of welfare protection, and the level of welfare.

Meanwhile, families, communities and society need to work together to create a friendly environment to ensure the implementation of child welfare measures. Ren Zeping and Birthe Larsen also emphasized the importance of increasing spending on social security and improving the protection of women's employment rights and non- marital pregnancy rights, so as to alleviate pressure on women in society.

Moreover, it has become particularly important to open up fertility policy and strengthen policy support. Yuan Xin mentioned that China's population aging is accelerating in comparison with other countries. Although China released its Two-Child Policy in 2006, the actual results have been far below expectations. Lifting birth restrictions and granting birth control rights to each family (i.e. full implementation of the Three-Child Policy) can have a positive impact on low birth rates to some extent. In addition, strengthening fertility policy support is just as important.

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