Scholars' views

Actively Implement the Birth Policy and Do Not Just Issue It

The population factor has always been a major strategic issue in national development decisions. Seventeen departments including National Health Commission of the PRC and National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) recently jointly issued the Guidelines on Further Improving and Implementing Encouraging Childbirth Support Measures (Guidelines), and introduced 20 specific measures to implement the birth support policy. The National Health Commission also held a press conference on August 17, explaining the relevant information of the Guidelines.

Generally, the Guidelines have been promulgated to further improve and implement the support measures for encouraging childbirth, and focus on the design and effective implementation of a package of supporting actions for increasing childbirth to match with the three-child policy. The Guidelines point out the desired efforts and objectives of Party Committees and governments at all levels and the general public in implementing the three-child policy. In line with the policy combination of actively responding to the population aging in recent years, the Guidelines focus on young children, people at reproductive age, and elderly, and comprehensively proceed with the whole process of marriage, childbirth, upbringing, education and old-age care throughout the life cycle. Through the building of multi-dimensional support systems such as economic incentives, time support, high-quality services, maternity care and maternity safety, we will take active fertility support measures covering various fields, such as the finance, taxation, education, insurance, housing, employment, vacation, environment, take multiple measures at the same time, and make great efforts to address the urgent and difficult problems of the groups who are going to have children. We will systematically help families build up their childbirth confidence, with a view to raise the fertility rate appropriately.

Hao Fuqing, Deputy Director and First-class Counsel of the Social Development Department of the NDRC, introduced that domestic surveys showed that infants and young children left unattended is the primary factor hindering fertility. Studies and international experience have also shown that the development of babysitting and child care is effective in reducing the burden of families and increasing the willingness to have children. The focus of the Guidelines on young children and people at reproductive age is particularly noteworthy. The former underscores providing care for children, educating them, and keeping them healthy, while the latter focuses on addressing the issue of willing to have children, resolved to have children, and able to have children.

In terms of the young children particularly, the Guidelines firstly proposed to increase the supply of inclusive childcare. Secondly, specific arrangements have been made to reduce the operating costs of childcare institutions and improve the quality of childcare services. Thirdly, in terms of pre-school education, we propose to strengthen the supply of high-quality education resources, improve the inclusive pre-school education funding mechanism where financial inputs will be mainly made by the government, reasonably shared by families and other channels. Fourthly, in the stage of compulsory education, we will improve the level of balanced development of compulsory education, undertake the responsibilities of the government for conducting compulsory education according to law, and continue to implement the two exemptions and one subsidy. Fifthly, we will give play to the role of family babysitting. Sixthly, we will strengthen health management services for children aged 0 to 6.

The 20 childbirth support policies proposed in the Guidelines can be divided into five categories. The first category is economic incentives, which include formulating and improving the maternity insurance and maternity allowance payment policy, upgrading the support measures of public rental housing security to encourage childbirth wishes, giving preference to multiple-child families in the housing policy, and bringing flexible employment personnel into the coverage of maternity insurance. The second is time support. The Guidelines proposes to improve the maternity leave system. Some governments have already granted the extended maternity leave, paternity leave for husbands, and baby care leave, and allowed pregnant women to work flexibly with regard to the workplace and working hours. The third is quality service. The Guidelines has mentioned services 49 times, involving the whole process of sound maternal and child care, the quality of child health services, and reproductive health services. The fourth category is care for childbirth. We will strive to create a maternity friendly employment environment and social atmosphere, and take care of and respect those who give birth. The fifth is reproductive safety. Generally speaking, it is an age of late marriage and late childbirth, and the behavior of childbearing at an older age carries certain risks. We advocate marriage and childbearing at an appropriate age, and also should take full care of the health of older pregnant women and their babies.

Childbirth is a national mission, and childbirth is a greater livelihood. A safe and warm childbirth policy system is an important part of the national public policy system and a basic social public policy. Undoubtedly, it is fine to have a more relaxed birth policy, but what is more important is to effectively implement a series of economic and social policies and measures matching such birth policy. We must not sit and watch without doing anything after relaxing the policy. The implementation of the childbirth planning policy involves the responsibilities and institutional arrangements of relevant government departments horizontally, or the policy implementation arrangements of governments at all levels vertically. This is why 17 government departments jointly issued the comprehensive implementation plan for the Guidelines, and 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions released their amended Regulations on Population and Family Planning successively. These regulations have been promulgated to protect the rights and interests of childbearing people according to law and meet their practical needs as much as possible. Only by doing so can the three-child policy yield better results.

We expect to see achievements as long as we work on it. However, the stimulating effects of these positive childbirth measures on the fertility rate cannot happen all at once. It is neither a scientific nor a realistic idea to see immediate outcomes shortly after the implementation.