After implementing strict “family planning” for many years, China announced the implementation of the “three-child” policy at the end of May this year. In the second half of the year, the policies of various provinces in China have also changed dramatically, and local laws and regulations have been introduced to encourage childbirth, such as the abolition of social support payments, and even direct cash subsidies to families with three children.
Currently, more than 20 provinces, municipalities or autonomous regions have issued encouraging policies. The most striking thing is that all regions have extended maternity leave and maternity leave, and the extent is considerable.
According to China’s national policy, the legal maternity leave is 98 days. Provinces have increased maternity leave on this basis. For example, Henan Province and Hainan Province, which have increased significantly, stipulate maternity leave of 3 months, bringing the total number of days of leave for women after giving birth to 190 days; Jiangxi and Qinghai are 188 days, even though Less Ningxia and Guizhou also reached 158 days.
There are also provinces that increase step by step according to the number of fetuses. For example, Zhejiang stipulates that one child can take 158 days off, and both two and three children can take 188 days off; Shaanxi stipulates that giving birth to three children is an additional 15 days on the basis of 158 days.
In addition to the national maternity leave of 98 days, the provinces have added two to three months of maternity leave, and various regions have also introduced nursing leave ranging from 15 days to 30 days for male spouses, and 10-30 days before children are 3 years old. Parental leave.
Yi Fuxian, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, told BBC Chinese that it is correct from an overall strategic perspective. Japan, South Korea, and Europe have all taken the lead in the length of maternity leave.
On the Chinese social media Weibo, many netizens expressed their concerns about this policy-“Only girls in the system can truly enjoy this system, and the situation of female employees in private companies is even more difficult”, “Girls’ career path This time is gone”, “I finished maternity leave, and the boss directly cut me half of my salary. He felt that I must be distracted with the child. Maternity leave will be longer in the future, and I don’t know what will happen.”
Excessive maternity leave affects the competitiveness of women in the workplace, and this problem also occurs in other countries or economies. For example, Japan, which has a chronically low fertility rate, increased maternity leave for women to three years. The extra-long maternity leave made women very vulnerable in the workplace. Not only did the employment rate hover at an ultra-low 40%, but the job level was also lower than that of men.
It is worth noting that when France is resolving this problem, it is stipulated that male spouses and mothers enjoy the same length of leave, which makes companies no longer have to consider the potential issue of extra-long maternity leave when facing male and female applicants.
Yi Fuxian believes that the losses caused by long-term maternity leave in Japan and Russia are borne by the state’s finances and have little impact on enterprises. Some provinces in China have insurance funds to provide them, and most of them are borne by enterprises. Unwilling to recruit female employees, these side effects need to be resolved by supporting measures, and companies must also have the willingness to better implement these policies.
Make up for shortcomings
“China’s family planning has caused a lot of fertility problems. Extending maternity leave is to make up for the shortcomings, but it is necessary to plug all the shortcomings, and only one can be repaired. The effect is very small.” Yi Fuxian believes that China is in There are two shortcomings in the issue of fertility-high housing prices and low income.
After the Asian financial crisis, Zhu Rongji, who took over as the prime minister of China, embarked on the reform of the real estate market and abandoned the welfare housing system.
After more than a decade, the real estate market became the locomotive driving China’s domestic demand, but it was also accompanied by stubborn illnesses such as “soaring housing prices” and “land finance”, and even serious secondary problems such as “compulsory demolition”. Hurricane rapid development has become an important driving force for China’s economy.
In this process, Chinese real estate companies have made a lot of money; local governments are also selling large amounts of land in this process to enrich their finances; residents buy houses “on the car” and realize asset appreciation under rising housing prices, which seems to have been achieved. A rare win-win situation.
The problem is that for young couples who did not buy a house and “get on the car”, housing prices have become a high wall in the face of fertility options.
Yi Fuxian said that the pressure on housing prices in China is now very high, and young people cannot have children under high housing prices. The problem is that we are now talking about “housing and housing, not speculation”, but it cannot be reduced. Once it is reduced, the local economic capital chain will be broken. The local government is afraid of falling housing prices. If the Chinese government has the courage to lower housing prices, it will also trigger The economic crisis.
Another shortcoming is the income of residents. According to Yi Fuxian, the disposable income of residents is only about 43% of GDP. In the past, China was mainly an only child with a limited consumption structure. The proportion of 43% can still make a living without any problem. If two or three children, they will not be able to feed at all.
It seems that in order to cope with this shortcoming, shortly after the introduction of the three-child policy, China proposed “common prosperity” to strengthen the regulation and regulation of high incomes, protect legal incomes in accordance with the law, and reasonably adjust excessively high incomes.
However, there are also opponents who believe that the so-called “common prosperity” of the Chinese authorities is intended to consolidate the support of the people at the bottom of society for the legitimacy of the CCP’s governance, and that the next step may be to attack large private companies and help the authorities solve the problem of inequality between the rich and the poor through “kidnapping” charities. problem.
In addition, China has implemented a severe “double reduction” policy this year to crack down on the “education and training” industry, which is also considered to reduce the cost of parenting.
Experiences and lessons from other countries
In developed countries, low fertility has been a chronic disease for many years, and aging has also become a “modern disease.” Various countries have also implemented various policies, but the actual effect is not good.
David Dollar, a senior researcher in Chinese economics at Brookings in the United States, believes that China has limited ways to change this demographic situation, because measures to increase fertility are often ineffective, and China does not have the conditions to accept large-scale immigrants. The retirement age is relatively low, and there is room for improvement.
Many European countries have introduced high welfare policies to subsidize parenting costs to increase fertility. But Yi Fuxian reminded that the Nordic policy also has strong side effects. For example, under the high welfare policy, the proportion of children born out of wedlock is very high, even as high as 70% in Iceland. This method can increase the fertility rate in the short term, but it is not sustainable in the long run. , And cause the lack of the role of the father in the child’s growth process.
“High welfare subsidies for childbirth, increasing the employment rate of women, and seemingly a policy of helping women, actually transfer the father’s financial responsibility to the whole society and increase the burden on women in the family. Women will work harder and harder. This is unfair. It’s not reasonable.”
Yi Fuxian believes that the policies mentioned by the Chinese government such as universal childcare services are tangible guarantees. The specific measures remain to be seen, but if done, the stimulus to fertility will be better than the liberalization of second and third births. To be big.