Cynicism and resistance to the three-child policy of Chinese Government


Even as the Chinese Communist Party offers young newlyweds 30 days of paid holiday as part of its three-child policy, many women are sceptical that real progress will follow. The Global Institute for Women’s Leadership’s new collection, Essays on Equality: The politics of childcare, pointed out unwillingness among Chinese women to have more children. The essay has un-covered anomalies in the 3-child policy child stating that the policy has infringed upon women’s reproductive right and added an unequal burden of childcare responsibilities besides, affecting their career.

Much of the birth rate downturn in China is the result of a “one child” policy imposed between 1980 and 2015, and a surge in education costs that has put many Chinese off having more than one child, or even having any at all. The Chinese government had implemented a one-child policy for 35 years (1980 to 2015) and compelled millions of women to forced contraception, forced sterilisation, and forced abortion.

Due to plummeting birth rates, the government wanted women to have more children and swiftly moved from one to two child policy in 2016. But that too failed to yield the desired results. However, the government swiftly moved to three-child policy in 2021 and offered tax cuts, subsidies, cash rewards and other incentives. None of these worked well so far: China’s birth rate continues to drop. The total fertility rate decreased from 2.6 in the late 1980s to just 1.15 in 2021. In fact, in 2022 the population might have declined for the first time since the Great Famine of 1959 to 1961, according to a projection by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

The three-child policy met with widespread cynicism online. “I’m not buying three Rolls-Royces not because there’s any restriction, but because they’re expensive,” a post on the Chinese social media platform Weibo read. “I want to sell my quota to rich people,” wrote another. Women in China have resisted 3 child policy because of unequal burden of childcare responsibilities and its potential detrimental impact on their career.

A study on the impact of family planning policy changes on urban women in 2020 reported that 45 per cent of respondents said their employment was negatively affected by pregnancy or childrearing. Over one-third reported income loss, and more than 20 per cent described losing opportunities for training or promotions. Another 13 per cent said they were fired or forced to resign, and eight per cent said they experienced demotion. The study pointed out that companies do not want to hire women employee who might be absent during the three to six months of maternity leave, and the costs associated with hiring a replacement.

The Chinese government has taken some steps to assist women in the workplace. In November, the government amended the Women’s Rights and Interests Protection Law, the highest law concerning gender equality in the country, for the first time in nearly 30 years. Among the provisions to combat gender discrimination in the workplace, the law banned employers from inquiring or investigating the marital and maternal status of female job applicants or making such status a condition for employment.

The Women’s Protection Law, which came into effect in January 2023 is likely to strengthen enforcement, which has been poor so far. In August 2022, 17 central government agencies jointly issued a notice outlining the government’s plan to increase the birth rate, with one of the major measures being increasing government-sponsored childcare facilities and services.

The Chinese Communist Party’s latest offer to young newlyweds 30 days of paid holiday has given some hope to the government and that it would boost country’s falling birth rates. According to the People’s Daily Health, the north-western province of Gansu and the coal-producing province of Shanxi now give 30 days, while Shanghai gives 10 and Sichuan still only three. China’s minimum paid marriage leave is three days, but provinces have been able to set their own more generous allowances since February.

China has smartly created an eco-system to ensure the fertility rate increases. Couples in the reproductive age are being offered incentives so that they can comply with 3 child policy. But the reality is contrary to the government’s expectations. China’s population fell last year for the first time in six decades, according to official data – a turning-point that is expected to mark the start of a long period of decline. Last year, China recorded its lowest ever birth rate, of 6.77 births per 1,000 people.

However, the government should develop programmes to reduce discriminatory gender norms related to childcare responsibilities, end discriminatory parental leave policies, expand parental leave policies and protections for both men and women who wish to take it, and ensure availability and affordability of childcare and other forms of professional caregiving. And most importantly, the government must abolish the three-child policy because birth limits, no matter the number, are fundamentally an infringement on women’s reproductive rights and bodily autonomy, stated the essay in Global Institute for Women’s Leadership’s new collection.

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