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Are Second Baby Incentives Necessary?

To reduce the burden for two-child families, some deputies to the National People's Congress suggested "birth rewards and subsidies," but others are opposed

By Zhang Qingchen Updated Mar.13

China’s two-child policy has been in place for over a year now, but is still causing heated discussion, this time at the annual legislative and advisory sessions on whether “birth rewards and subsidies” for two-child families are necessary.  

Some delegates saw the subsidies as incentives to increase the birth rate. He Youlin, deputy to the National People’s Congress, suggested the government should give rewards and subsidies to families that have a second child, such as reducing the personal income tax or even providing a milk powder allowance, in order to reduce the cost of having a baby. A Guangdong lawyer, Zhu Lieyu, even proposed that women who have a second child should be given three years of benefits, worth up to 70 or 80 percent of the local average salary.  

Other commentators said the key incentive to encourage fertility is improving public services and protecting women's rights in their careers, rather than directly giving them financial support. Gao Gang, deputy director of Guizhou Academy of Social Sciences, noted that families who do not want to have a second child were concerned over the poor public services in terms of medical insurance and the education system. Many female workers who have a second child do not enjoy the same legal rights in the workplace as when they have their first child, said Li Hui, executive director of a legal practice in Shandong Province.  

Yet, Liang Zhongtang, professor at Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, argued that there is no close link between the desire to have a second child and any “birth subsidies” policy, stressing that fertility and welfare benefits are different because the improvement to public services and welfare mechanisms is the duty for a modern and service-oriented government in protecting civil rights, and is not related to the desire to have a second child.