Why China wants more kids but Chinese people don’t

By Dolly Li

China nixed its one-child policy in late 2015, allowing all couples to now have two. The country — which is the world’s most populous — has one main reason for its decision: to address their large aging population. Still, the government’s change of heart may not be enough to sway young couples to take on the financial and emotional burden of having an extra kid. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know to understand China’s predicament:

1) 389 million

Estimated number of Chinese citizens who will be over the age of 60 in 2040. In 25 years, the elderly are going to make up 28% of the population (in 2010, they made up just 12% of the population). To put that in perspective: there will be more elderly people in China in 2040 than U.S. residents. [United Nations]

2) 40%

The percentage of Chinese respondents who expressed no interest in having a second child in two recent online polls. Many cite financial hardship as the reason, including:

  • Education | On top of fees and private tutoring, many Chinese families feel pressure to pay under the table for admission to better schools.
  • Food | Due to the 2008 melamine-tainted milk scare, many people are paying an arm and a leg for imported food.
  • Healthcare | The People’s Republic of China’s social services are still underdeveloped. And being ill is expensive.

3) 9:1

The ratio of the average price of a home to the average salary in China. Young couples feel dissuaded from having bigger families because the cost of being a three-person family (plus the cost of caring for two sets of aging parents) is already overwhelming. [Fortune]

4) 44.7%

Percentage of the Chinese workforce composed of women, according to China’s 2010 census. More women are working than ever before and many young mothers find themselves too busy to care for their first child, let alone think about a second. [People’s Daily]

5) $374

The average amount of money the Chinese government spent on an individual’s healthcare services in 2010. In contrast, Western European countries spent about $4,833 per capita on healthcare. Chinese citizens often take on the financial and caregiving responsibilities of supporting their elders, especially since the government has yet to fund senior social services. China will have to invest more in healthcare if they expect young couples, many who don’t have siblings to share caregiving responsibilities with, to have the time and money to raise extra children. And they better start doing it quickly. [United Nations]