The Question: Will China’s two-child policy spark a baby boom?

Beijing’s lifting of the one-child rule will bring three million extra births a year in the next five years

Baby boom: Chinese couples can now apply to the government to have a second child. Photograph: VCG via Getty

Baby boom: Chinese couples can now apply to the government to have a second child. Photograph: VCG via Getty

 

China’s little emperors may soon be dethroned if its citizens adopt the country’s new two-child policy. Since 1980 the Beijing government has brutally implemented a policy of one child per couple, in a bid to curb overpopulation.

The policy led to forced sterilisation and abortions, infanticide and a huge gender imbalance, as couples chose to have boys instead of girls.

It has also left the country’s ageing population with fewer younger people to look after them. At the beginning of the year China finally ended its one-child policy, and couples can now apply to the government to have a second child.

So will this lead to a baby boom in the world’s most populous country? According to Chinese family-planning authorities, the lifting of the second-child ban will result in an extra three million births a year over the next five years, with the population – currently 1.37 billion – predicted to hit 1.45 billion by 2029.

In Beijing doctors and maternity staff are bracing for a population explosion, with more than 400,000 births expected in the capital this year, as couples jump on the chance to give their little emperor a little brother or sister.

But the boom may not be as big as originally predicted. According to China’s family-planning authority, about two million couples had applied to have a second child by the end of 2015, when the change in policy was announced. This is far fewer than the Chinese authorities hoped for.

The low uptake is partially blamed on rising education costs and a competitive society. The government is planning to increase parental leave for mothers and streamline birth applications, and is encouraging couples to get married younger and start a family.

So you may see a few more buggies on the streets of Beijing and other cities, but it may be a while before the place is overrun with screaming kids.

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