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The second highest expense in the world is the cost of raising children in China.
The second highest expense in the world is the cost of raising children in China.

The second highest expense in the world is the cost of raising children in China.

China’s population decline is expected to continue, despite the possibility of a traditional increase in births during the Dragon Year and signs of an increase in marriage rates after nine consecutive years of decline due to the pandemic. According to a recent report from the YuWa Population Research Institute in Beijing, one of the main reasons for low birth rates is the high financial cost of raising a child in China. This is compounded by widespread economic pessimism and a sense of disillusionment, as reflected in the phrase “We’re the last generation” in the pandemic era. According to a report by Amy Hawkins at The Guardian, the cost of raising a child until the age of 18 has now reached 538,000 yuan (or 667,000 yuan in cities). This is 6.3 times China’s per capita GDP and is approximately 50% higher than the equivalent cost in the U.S. or Japan, making it one of the highest in the world after South Korea.

The report also discussed the potential sacrifices, primarily made by mothers, that come with raising children. From 2010 to 2018, there was a rise in the amount of time parents spent each week assisting their elementary school-aged children with homework, from 3.67 hours to 5.88 hours.

Lijia Zhang, an author currently researching a book on the evolving perspectives of Chinese women towards marriage and parenthood, stated that the exorbitant expenses for education and housing have created financial challenges for raising children. In interviews, numerous women expressed their inability to afford having two to three children, with some only able to handle one or not even desiring to have one at all.

Zhang stated, “A significant factor is the shift in attitudes. Numerous women in urban and educated settings no longer view motherhood as a mandatory stage of life or a key component of happiness.”

The report by YuWa stated that China’s decreasing birthrate will greatly affect its economic growth, innovation, people’s happiness, and national revitalization. The main reason for China’s low fertility rate is due to the high cost of having children, which is one of the highest in the world.

In a previous piece for The Wall Street Journal, Liyan Qi discussed the current decline in population and its origins dating back to more than forty years ago with the implementation of China’s one-child policy. The article also mentioned the findings and suggestions of the YuWa Institute.

Several years have passed, and China is experiencing an earlier onset of aging compared to other major economies in its development. The decrease in birth rates and increase in elderly population poses a potential hindrance to economic progress. As a result of growing up without siblings, young women are less inclined to have children, leading to a declining number of births each year. The government in Beijing is struggling to shift the mindset influenced by the previous policy.

Births in China fell by more than 500,000 last year, according to recent government data, accelerating a population drop that started in 2022. Officials cited a quickly shrinking number of women of childbearing age—more than three million fewer than a year earlier—and acknowledged “changes in people’s thinking about births, postponement of marriage and childbirth.”

Certain experts claim that the government is downplaying the issue and that the decline in population actually started earlier.

James Liang is the co-founder and chairman of Trip.com Group, a travel service provider. He is also a research professor of economics at Peking University. Along with this, he co-founded the YuWa Population Research Institute, a private think tank that specializes in analyzing demographics and public policy.

According to Liang’s estimate, China should allocate 5% of its gross domestic product, which is similar to its education budget, towards direct subsidies to encourage more births and reduce the expenses of raising children. This would help increase the fertility rate to 1.4, which is the average rate of developed countries. In his company, long-term employees receive a yearly cash bonus of 10,000 yuan ($1,406) for each child until they reach 5 years old. [Source]

The recent report was also featured in China Daily, which highlighted the recommendation to promptly implement policies to decrease the expenses of raising children. While some policies are currently being considered, the government has also resorted to more forceful tactics, as noted by Yaqiu Wang from Freedom House in her article for The Hill.

In the beginning of this month, a woman from Sichuan province shared multiple videos on the internet displaying burns on her body. She claimed that her husband had intentionally set her on fire after enduring years of abuse. According to local reports, the woman had previously attempted to divorce her husband. This recent incident has sparked renewed discussion on the Chinese internet regarding a contentious clause introduced in 2021, which mandates couples seeking divorce to wait 30 days after submitting their initial application before reapplying.

In light of a decline in birth rates and an increasing elderly population, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has determined that the best solution to the country’s demographic challenges is to encourage women to focus on domestic duties and childbearing. One approach the party has taken is implementing stricter divorce regulations.

#MeToo

The activist has been held in custody since 2021 for allegedly inciting acts of subversion against the government.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) constantly promotes traditional values and condemns feminism through censorship and intimidation. The Communist Youth League, a CCP organization responsible for influencing Chinese youth, declared that “extreme feminism” is a “cancer” on the internet. President Xi has also encouraged women to adhere to traditional roles and, in a November speech, urged government officials to promote a culture of marriage and childbearing and shape young people’s ideas about love, marriage, fertility, and family. [Source]

In early 2021, CDT translated an essay expressing concerns about the cooling-off period following the killing of Kan Xiaofang by her abusive husband. Last year, CDT also translated portions of two interviews with former sports journalist Yi Xiaohe, who wrote the book “Salt Town” about the prevalence of domestic violence in a rural town in Sichuan province. Other articles from CDT have covered women’s reactions to societal pressure to have children, the closing of online feminist groups, and ongoing #MeToo cases involving sexual harassment and assault. To learn more about women’s rights during the ongoing natalist campaign, read our December 2023 interview with Leta Hong Fincher discussing the tenth-anniversary edition of her book “Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China.”

A significant portion of the financial responsibility for raising children is due to the expenses of ensuring they can keep pace in a highly competitive academic environment. In a recent article for Rest Of World, Caiwei Chen examined the increasing popularity of “AI-powered” educational tablets, despite their expensive price tag and questionable efficacy.

Companies in the technology industry, such as iFlytek and Baidu, are now involved in a rapidly growing sector that utilizes AI to create educational tablets. For instance, the iFlytek T20 Pro, which was purchased by Yang for her daughter, resembles an iPad but operates on a modified version of Android. The tablet’s software is restricted, preventing children from downloading games or engaging in other forms of entertainment. Instead, it offers a variety of apps that utilize Xinghuo, iFlytek’s advanced language model AI. These apps include a chatbot for conversing with students in English, a gamified quiz tool for analyzing test results, and OCR (optical character recognition) software that claims to be capable of scanning and grading handwritten essays like a teacher would.

The demand for educational tablets has increased due to a crackdown on tutoring by the government. In China, the after-school educational system is a lucrative industry, with 137 million students participating in out-of-school classes in 2016. To address the pressure faced by students and parents, the government conducted a review of 124,000 offline and 263 online education companies, and revoked the licenses of 96% of offline businesses and 87.1% of online ones. However, despite the decrease in available tutors, the demand for their services remains high. Chen Hengyi, a primary school teacher in Wuhan, stated that almost all of his above-average students still receive tutoring. As a result, the cost of tutoring has risen significantly, leading some parents to seek alternative methods of additional education, such as AI tablets.

Parents may feel pressured to buy tablets for their children due to the influence of their school. In interviews with Rest of World, two parents stated that teachers and school staff have encouraged them to purchase the tablets by incorporating them into daily lessons. Even though the Chinese government has banned the compulsory sale of educational devices in schools starting in 2022, some schools have found ways to still require it. According to an anonymous sales agent for iFlytek who spoke with Rest of World, some schools have implemented a “subscription fee” for tablet use and bill parents every semester, bypassing the ban on direct sales. [Source]