Zhang Lijia

While fixing the dropping birth rate in China might be challenging, improving the current position of single mothers should be a no-brainer, says author Zhang Lijia in the South China Morning Post. Some provinces have started to deal with the Sishengzi, or “secretly born child”, as a growing number of women do not want to marry, but still want to have a child, she writes.

Zhang Lijia:

Sishengzi, or “secretly born child”, is a derogatory term to describe children born out of wedlock. For a woman to raise such a child in China used to be as difficult as climbing up the sky. To start with, without a marriage certificate, this child would not be able to get registered, which meant they could not go to a state school, take a flight or get vaccinated.

However, there are signs that suggest the Chinese government has begun to loosen control to a certain degree. In recent years, provinces such as Sichuan, Guangdong, Anhui and Shaanxi have issued new regulations that allow unmarried mothers to register their children. More governments are likely to follow suit.

In July, the authorities in Xian announced that single mothers could now apply for child subsidies and insurance. These developments are encouraging, but in my view, the central government needs to go much further.

The new regulations were developed amid increasing concerns of a plummeting birth rate. China allowed couples to have two children in 2016, with the limit going up to three children five years later, but not enough couples have taken up the offer. China’s fertility rate dropped to a record low of 1.09 last year. The enormous cost of raising a child and changing values have also contributed to this alarming trend.

More in the South China Morning Post.

Zhang Lijia is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need her at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

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