Predictions of a baby boomlet come to little
WHEN China eased its one-child policy late last year, investors bet on a surge in demand for everything from pianos to nappies. They, and government officials, foresaw a mini-boom after long-constrained parents were allowed a second go at making babies.
So far, however, it is hard to identify a bedroom productivity burst. About 270,000 couples applied for permission to have second children by the end of May, and 240,000 received it, according to the national family-planning commission. It means China will fall well short of the 1m-2m extra births that Wang Peian, the deputy director of the commission, had predicted.
The problem is partly bureaucratic. China announced the relaxation of the one-child policy in November: if at least one of two parents is a single child, the couple may have two children. Provinces began implementing the new rule only in January. Fearful of a baby boom that would overwhelm hospitals and, eventually, schools, they have made the application process cumbersome. In the eastern city of Jinan, for instance, would-be parents must provide seven different documents, including statements from employers certifying their marital status. With 11m couples suddenly eligible to have second children, some caution over easing policy may be understandable. As the process is simplified, more parents will choose to go through it. Analysts expect additional new births to rise toward 1m a year over the next decade or so. That is on top of today’s average of 16m births a year.
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