Birth Rate Collapse: China Province Proposes Nearly One Year Paid Maternity Leave

HUAINAN, CHINA - OCTOBER 01: Nurses take care of babies who were born on the National Day on October 1, 2017 in Huainan, China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
VCG/VCG via Getty Images

China’s northwestern province of Shaanxi has outlined a proposal to allow residents nearly one year of paid maternity leave, Reuters reported Wednesday.

“Shaanxi is seeking public opinion on allowing an additional half a year of maternity leave on top of the current 168 days,” Reuters revealed on November 3.

The landlocked province “is also considering doubling the length of paternity leave to 30 days for couples looking to have a third child,” according to the international news agency.

China’s government announced new guidelines in May allowing married couples to have up to three children. The edict came in response to China’s latest census data, which showed a drastic decline in the national birth rate.

China recorded 12 million births in 2020, a figure “sharply down from 14.65 million in 2019 and the lowest since 1961,” Reuters reported on May 11, citing China’s then-newly released 2020 census data.

China’s ruling Communist Party caused the nation’s birth rate to decline by enforcing a “one-child” policy nationwide for decades starting in the late 1970s. The federal government limited the size of Chinese families in an effort to curb China’s then-mushrooming population. The policy was eased to allow two children per couple in 2016 before expanding to three children earlier this year. The allowances for larger families were made after China’s fertility rate dropped in 2020 to just 1.3 children per woman.

The province of Heilongjiang, which neighbors Russia, “even allows couples in border cities to have four children, due to the below-average birth rate in China’s remote northeastern region,” Reuters noted on Wednesday.

The Chinese government says it plans to offer new benefits to parents in an effort to support its new three-child policy.

At least 14 provinces, including Shaanxi, “have either amended local family planning rules or are seeking public opinion to make amendments to laws to confer extra maternity or paternity leave” since May, according to Reuters.

Some Chinese provinces have proposed a new form of parental leave called “child-raising leave.” The paid time off is meant for couples with children age 3 or younger, Chinese state media reported on November 3. China’s southern island province of Hainan now offers one hour of “child-raising leave” per day to each parent with a child under the age of 3.

China’s State Council, or top administrative authority, announced new policies on June 9 to “support families while providing extended child care leave,” Sixth Tone reported.

“It is required to fully implement the maternity leave system such as maternity leave and relevant regulations on breastfeeding time, and encourage regions with conditions to explore and carry out trials of parental leave,” the council said at the time.


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