Loans for babies: Chinese province's strategy to beat population blues

·2 min read
A baby stroller is seen as mothers play with their children at a public area in downtown Shanghai

BEIJING (Reuters) - Jilin in northeast China is offering married couples bank loans of up to 200,000 yuan ($31,400) if they have kids, joining other provinces in the roll-out of financial incentives to overcome a declining population.

Certain small businesses set up by couples with two or three children will also enjoy exemptions and cuts in value-added taxes, the Jilin government said in a statement on Thursday.

China's demographic issues are particularly prominent in the three northeastern rustbelt provinces of Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang, as residents ventured to other provinces for work while couples deferred marriage or plans to have a family.

The region's population fell 10.3% in 2020 compared with 2010. Jilin slumped 12.7%.

Provinces have been given more impetus to tackle demographic issues after China said in May that it would allow married couples to have up to three children instead of two.

The decision came on the heels of a census findings showing China's population expanded at its weakest pace in the last decade since the 1950s, heightening anxieties that China would grow old before it gets wealthy, as well as drawing criticism authorities had waited too long to tackle a drop-off in births.

Recent official data also showed China had a fertility rate of 1.3 children per woman in 2020, on par with greying societies like Japan and Italy and short of the roughly 2 children needed to replace their parents.

In October, Anhui in eastern China warned that the number of births in the province may tumble 17.8% this year from 2020, extending a "cliff-like" plunge in recent years.

Jilin also said it will also extend the duration of paid maternity leave to 180 days from 98 days, and a man's nursing leave to 25 days from 15, joining provinces elsewhere in re-writing laws to allow more maternity and paternity leave.

($1 = 6.3704 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Ryan Woo and Albee Zhang; Editing by Michael Perry)

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