Expert: Low Fertility Figures Not Linked to Women's High Employment Rate

October 11, 2018
Editor: Xie Wen

Liang Jianzhang, chairman of the board of Chinese travel service provider Ctrip, captured the public's attention recently after he expressed his views on China's low fertility on a talk show.

Liang held the view that Chinese women having the highest proportion of employment  in the world has resulted in low fertility rates in the main cities of China
He also put forward his view on the advantages and disadvantages to explain how women will contribute more to China's economic development. The cost of their fertility will continue to get more serious, however, he said.

He suggested that the next policy reform should focus on the full liberalization of family planning and more investment of financial resources and subsidies to help parents raise their children.

To be fair, these thoughts and suggestions are indeed constructive, but the conclusions derived from the phenomena are wrong in that the low fertility rate should not be attributed to the high working rate of Chinese women.

Such arguments lack both data support and facts, and can hardly hold water logically.

An analysis of the data on population and female employment in the last two years can be used to show this fallacy.

In 2016, the China Statistical Yearbook 2016 published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said the one-percent national sample census results  showed that the total fertility rate of Chinese women of childbearing age in 2015 was 1.047 children per family.

According to the statistics issued by National Health and Family Planning Commission, the number of newborn babies in the country in 2016 was 18.46 million, an increase of over 2 million compared to 2013. The total fertility rate had increased to above 1.7 in 2016.

The report based on the mid-term evaluation of the implementation of China National Program for Women's Development (2011-2020) issued by the NBS shows that in 2015, female employment in the country accounted for 42.9 percent of the total employment of the whole society. In 2016, this proportion rose to 43.1 percent.

It can be inferred from the above data that the fertility rate had improved significantly under the premise that the female employment rate had not fallen.

In fact, the high opportunity cost of women's fertility had not been caused by high working rates, but the lack of family development policies and maternity protection policies. Thus, reducing female employment rate without improving corresponding supporting policies might lead to even lower, not higher fertility rates.

Mu Guangzong, professor at the Institute of Population Research of Peking University, recently wrote an article about the major causes of low fertility in China.

He holds the opinion that the high costs, including the cost of living, education, medical, labor, time and opportunity, have caused many families to be concerned about the problems of raising a child. Moreover, many families, especially women, are worried about the potential high risks and the many uncertainties brought about by fertility.

Data published by Southern Metropolis Daily corroborates Mu's point. An ordinary family needs to spend at least about 700,000 yuan to raise a child; whilst such costs surge to 2.76 million yuan for a family in Beijing. If women, who are one of the important sources of family economic income, do not work, they may be more hesitant to give birth.

Women are no scapegoats and they should not take the blame. People should be scientific, rigorous and rational while paying attention to public issues, relying on objective and detailed data to explore the truth, rather than discretionarily jumping into arbitrary conclusions.

In addition, Mu offered his suggestion on solving the problem of low fertility rate. He said, "Women's reproductive freedom should be respected, and the government should create a low-cost, low-pressure, low-risk environment to achieve the long-term balanced development goal of population.

"The problem would be settled if women's rights concerning employment and paid leave were protected, relevant basic public services were perfected, and family development policies could be well implemented," Mu said.

 (Source: Translated and edited by Women of China)

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