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Chinese province ends ban on unmarried people having children | China

A Chinese province of more than 80 million people will lift birth restrictions for unmarried people and remove restrictions on the number of children as part of a national campaign to boost the country’s birth rate.

The Sichuan Health Commission announced on Monday that from February 15, all people will be allowed to register births with the provincial government. It will also remove the limits on the number of birth registrations for any parent.

Until now, the commission has allowed only married couples who wanted to have up to two children to register with local governments. In a government notice, the Sichuan authorities said the measures “shift the focus of birth registration to the desire to have children and the results of childbearing.”

The measures will be in effect for five years.

National reproduction policies do not explicitly prohibit unmarried women from having children, but parents’ access to free services, including prenatal care, a mother’s salary during maternity leave, and employment protection, often requires proof of marriage.

Those who try to register a birth out of wedlock often face heavy fines in order to have a child. Hukou – Critical household registration in China, which gives the child access to education and social services.

The Chinese government is introducing a growing list of measures and legislative changes to encourage more people to have children. In 2022, the country’s population declined for the first time in six decades. The government’s concern is mainly focused on the impact of population aging on the economy, as the proportion of people of working age is declining compared to those who are supported by the state.

According to government data, Sichuan ranks seventh in terms of the proportion of the population over 60, or more than 21%. The province is among those that have tried many incentives to increase the birth rate. In July 2021, monthly allowances were introduced for parents who have a second or third child until the children are three years old.

After decades of punitive one-child policies that included financial sanctions and forced abortions and only ended in 2016, there is a significant gender imbalance in Chinese society due to the preference for male children. Young people are increasingly turning away from marriage and childbearing, citing the high cost of living, limited social mobility, increased career pressure and social expectations of women.

Yi Fuxian, an obstetrics and gynecology researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an expert on China’s population change, said the marriage requirement is linked to previous birth restrictions, ensuring that only one child (or later two or three children) is born. . one man and woman.

“Now this is tantamount to a complete abolition [limit]so there is no need to make marriage a requirement. Respect for illegitimate reproductive rights, but no encouragement for illegitimate children,” he said, adding that children out of wedlock are still rare in East Asia.

In response to the Sichuan Amendment, reactions on the Internet varied, with tens of millions of people sharing or discussing it. Some people said the measures failed to address their concerns about housing prices, while others suggested what it would mean for extramarital affairs and whether it would affect illegal surrogacy.

Some have criticized the policy for being desperate to increase the birth rate. “Let’s consider the question of whether to give birth or not after reforming the education and medicine system,” said one.

Some supported the policy. “If there are marital restrictions that forcibly bind two people to get married, and then after a long time they get divorced – what a mess! Under this policy, she is much more reliable and respects reproductive freedom.”

Xiaoqian Zhu, Verna Yu and Reuters contributed to this report.

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