China has finally seen a baby boom after birth rates rose last year
Births soared by 7.9 per cent in 2016 as the country saw the deliveries of more than 17.8 million newborns, according to China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission, but has still fallen SHORT of government estimates.
The figure, up by 1.31 million, is believed to have soared to produce the highest birth rates in this century – a record high not seen since the year 2000.
And it was revealed at least 45 per cent of babies born during 2016 were to families who already had one child.
Now the health authority is convinced the increase should be attributed to officials putting an end to a controversial policy that only allowed citizens to have one child.
China saw an increase in birth rates of more than 7 per cent
Almost half all babies born were to second time parents
The notorious one-child policy began in the 1970s in a bid to curb a then-surging population and limit the demands for water and other resources.
But it soon became a huge taboo subject after it was revealed the rule was responsible for severe human rights abuses – resulting in millions of backstreet abortions and thousands of newborn babies being abandoned in the streets.
Families who breached the shocking policy were handed heavy fines, while women were ordered to use compulsory birth control methods such as intrauterine devices.
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It also contributed to one of the worst gender balances in the world, thanks to the selective abortions of female foetuses as families tried to ensure their family name lived on in a son.
And the deeply unpopular rule also led to a ballooning elderly population – leaving China with a shrinking workforce as there were not enough young people to replace those of retirement age.
It is believed around 400million births were prevented over the last 40 years because of the rule.
Now officials claim the relaxation of the policy “came in time and worked effectively” to help increase a dwindling younger generation.
The one child policy was established in the 1970s
The universal two-child policy means 90 million couples are now eligible to have two children
Demographer Yuan Xin
But the increase still falls far short of earlier government estimates that China would add three million babies annually for the next five years.
The family planning commission says China should expect between 17 and 20 million births every year until 2020.
The total population is estimated to rise to 1.42 billion over the same time period, an increase of half a billion people in just five years.
The birth rate figure is up by 1.31 million
Demographer Yuan Xin, of Nankai University, estimated that the number of annual births would peak in 2017 and 2018 at about 20 million, as women born in the late 1970s and early 1980s rushed to have a second child before they grew too old.
He said: “We believe those who are eligible for the universal two-child policy have not given birth to a second child yet because the change started only early last year.
“[Before] there were about 11 million couples with one partner who was an only child, but the universal two-child policy means 90 million couples are now eligible to have two children.”
However, he added that because of a drop in the number of women of child-bearing age, the average total of newborns would probably drop back down to 16 million after 2020.