With China facing a looming demographic crisis, the government last month passed into law a three-child policy raising the permitted limit on family sizes.
But with many couples still hesitant to expand their families, some places are now offering cash incentives to encourage more births.
Huangzhugen village, in Lianjiang city in southern Guangdong province, will pay permanent residents up to $510 a month for babies born after September 1, state-run tabloid Global Times reported on Wednesday.
Families will receive the monthly subsidies until their babies turn 2 and a half years old – which could add up to more than $15,000 in total per baby.
The average annual income in Lianjiang was $3,295 per person in 2019, according to official data.
The subsidies, worth several million yuan in total, were donated by a wealthy man in the village, local newspaper Zhanjiang Daily reported.
The three-child policy is the latest measure in the government’s attempts to increase the country’s fertility rate amid a rapidly aging population and shrinking labor force.
The government announced the policy change just weeks after the 2020 census was published, which showed China’s population was growing at its slowest rate in decades.
Part of the government’s push has included financial incentives in many parts of the country. Linze county, in northwest Gansu province, is offering a $6,200 real estate subsidy for couples who have two or three children, according to Global Times. The local government is also planning to offer cash subsidies of up to $1,500 per baby per year for families with two or three children.
Panzhihua, a city in Sichuan province, is also giving cash handouts to families with two or three children, at $80 per month, per baby.
Similar measures have been implemented in other Asian countries experiencing similar demographic crises: the Japanese town of Nagi became a success story for fertility after paying couples who live there to have more children. The one-time payments increase from the first child to the second, and so on.
But in China, the official push for more babies has been met with criticism from many women and young people who say not enough has been done to address the main problems preventing them from having more children: entrenched gender inequality, lack of paternity leave, rising costs of living, and diminishing job opportunities.
To have more children, women often have to make significant career sacrifices, and can face increased discrimination in the workplace – especially since they are still expected to be primarily responsible for childcare and housework. With more women getting college educations and entering the workforce than ever, fewer are ready to make that sacrifice.
The problem is more pronounced in urban hubs, where the cost of living is higher, there is more competition for jobs, and many complain of stagnating wages.
But obstacles persist even in more rural, less densely populated areas. In Linze country, a local survey found the top three factors discouraging families from having more than one child are pressures on housing, education and childcare, according to Global Times.