专访中国计生协常务副会长王培安:推动新时代婚育文化走进千家万户 营造生育友好的社会环境
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Interview with Wang Pei’an, Executive Vice President of the China Family Planning Association: Promoting a Marriage and Childbearing Culture in the New Era to Every Household and Creating a Social Environment Friendly to Childbearing

专访中国计生协常务副会长王培安:推动新时代婚育文化走进千家万户 营造生育友好的社会环境

In an interview with China Daily, Wang Pei’an of the China Family Planning Association, an organization affiliated with the Central Committee and State Council, laments the declining interest in marriage and children in today’s China. Among other policy changes, Wang emphasizes the need to promote a culture of shared child-rearing responsibilities across genders and generations, improve maternity leave and childcare systems, and feature family development more prominently in popular online media in order to address China’s declining birth rate.

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China Daily, June 13: Recently, the 20th Central Finance and Economics Affairs Committee held its first meeting, emphasizing the importance of maintaining moderate fertility levels and population size to support China’s unique approach to modernization.

中国日报6月13日电 近期,二十届中央财经委员会召开第一次会议,提出要努力保持适度生育水平和人口规模,以人口高质量发展支撑中国式现代化。

The China Family Planning Association announced the second batch of pilot projects for building a marriage and childbearing culture in the new era at a recent event. The association pointed out that as China’s population growth pattern had formed a new normality, it was essential to reduce the cost of childbearing, education, and upbringing, and at the same time strongly promote a marriage and childbearing culture in the new era, thereby creating a social environment friendly to childbearing families.


What changes have China’s marriage and childbearing culture undergone in recent years? What does the “marriage and childbearing culture in the new era” entail? And how will it help promote the desired fertility levels and population size in China?


Wang Pei’an, Deputy Director of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference on Population, Resources, and Environment, and Executive Vice President of China Family Planning Association, recently answered these questions in an exclusive interview with China Daily.


China Daily: What changes have taken place in China’s marriage and childbearing culture in recent years? What are the underlying causes?


Wang Pei’an: Marriage and childbearing culture is an intrinsic force that governs people’s behaviors in these areas. It is a profound and fundamental factor influencing their decisions on marriage and childbearing. Overall, the younger generation’s views on marriage and childbearing are changing. Getting married and having children later in life and preferring fewer and healthier births are now widely accepted concepts among most youths. At the same time, there is an increasing trend of couples opting to not have children, individuals choosing not to marry or bear children, and rising divorce rates. People are less inclined to see childbearing as an inevitable life choice.


A survey conducted by the Family Planning Association on university students’ views on marriage and childbearing shows that “stability in both marriage and career” has become the most crucial prerequisite for childbirth. The idea of “having a stable career before starting a family” is a target pursued by both genders. Moreover, most students no longer see divorce as a source of shame. The views of university students differ significantly from the married population, indicating a conceptual shift toward a “low intrinsic desire for childbearing”. They seek deeper personal fulfillment and the experience of a joyous life along their marriage and childbearing journey.


Several primary reasons account for these shifts in marriage and childbearing culture:


1. With socio-economic development, people spend more time on education, which heavily impacts young people’s marriage and childbearing plans. Most women find it challenging to balance child-rearing with career growth, leading to childbirth anxieties, a significant factor contributing to these changing perceptions.


2. The spread of individualistic values has led many young people to view marriage and childbearing as personal affairs. They are putting more value on personal growth, freedom, and self-realization rather than traditional family values.


3. Modern society’s high demands on workforce quality have increased the cost of upbringing, causing people to invest more resources in their children, therefore making its cost a major burden for families. At the same time, the cost of marriage, housing, and education, have also been rising steadily.


4. The traditional roles of family in elderly care and child upbringing are diminishing, resulting in an increase in non-traditional families like those of older singles, cohabitants, and childless couples. The family unit is also decreasing in its size. In 2020, the average household size in China dropped to 2.62 people, a decrease of 0.82 people since 2000.


China Daily: What is the background for proposing the “Marriage and Childbearing Culture in the New Era”? What does it mainly include?

中国日报: “新时代婚育文化”是在什么背景下提出的?它主要包含哪些方面?

Wang Pei’an: One of the contexts for proposing the “Marriage and Childbearing Culture in the New Era” is the changing landscape of population growth. On the one hand, having a vast population size is a distinctive feature of our country. On the other hand, however, our population growth shows trends of fewer children, aging, and regional population disparity. “Fewer births and aging” have become the new normal in our population growth and will become the undertone of China’s socialist modernization construction and the realization of the second centenary goal. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the population decreased by 850,000 at the end of 2022 compared to the end of the previous year, with a natural growth rate of -0.60‰. This marks the first negative growth in China’s population in over 60 years. Meanwhile, the population aging in China is becoming increasingly serious. During the 14th Five-Year Plan period, the population aged 60 and above will increase from 264 million in 2020 to 309 million in 2025, accounting for 21.6% of the total population in 2025, compared to 18.4% in 2020. The population aged 80 and above will increase from 35.11 million in 2020 to 42 million in 2025.


Second, the fertility level continues to decline. With the development of the economy and society, the younger generation’s views on marriage and childbearing have been rapidly changing. “Getting married and having children later in life, and preferring fewer and healthier births” has become the mainstream understanding of childbearing in China. However, issues like “unwillingness to give birth, fear of giving birth, inability to conceive, and challenges in child-rearing” have become more prominent. Surveys show that the average intended number of children for childbearing-age women to have in China was 1.64 in 2021, lower than 1.76 in 2017 and 1.73 in 2019. As the main childbearing groups, the “post-90s” and “post-00s” generations, their numbers were only 1.54 and 1.48. Judging from the fertility rate changes, China’s overall fertility rate was 2.00 in 1992, 1.77 in 2016 when the “Two-Child Policy” was officially implemented, and this number dropped to 1.15 in 2021.


Third, our people aspire to have a beautiful marriage and family life. General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out, that “No matter how the time change, or how the economy and society develop themselves, for a society, the family will play an irreplaceable role as people’s foundation of life, a functional part of the society, and a building block of our civilization.” General Secretary Xi Jinping’s statement on the “Three Irreplaceables” of family building comprehensively affirms the unique role of families in elderly care, emotional support, economic support, risk resistance, and more, which neither the state nor society can replace. It also highlights the pivotal role of the family in stimulating social vitality, promoting social production, strengthening social security, improving social governance, and passing on the civilizational heritage of the society. Building a marriage and childbearing culture for the new era, promoting the social value of childbearing, and highlighting the social function of family care for the elderly and children, are representative of a people-centered development philosophy and standpoint, which respond to the public’s aspirations for a better and happier life.


The Central Committee’s “Decision on Improving Birth Policies to Promote Long-Term Balanced Population Growth” suggests that we should promote traditional virtues of the Chinese nation, respect the social value of childbearing, advocate marriage and childbearing at the appropriate age, promote fertility and high-quality childrearing, encourage couples to share child-rearing responsibilities, and abandon old customs like high-priced dowries. This is a systematic and comprehensive interpretation of the marriage and childbearing culture in the new era, as well as the focus of the family planning association system of all levels in their endeavors to promote this culture nationwide. In May 2023, the China Family Planning Association, along with the National Health Commission and the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League, organized a promotional event with the theme of building a marriage and childbearing culture for the new era. They issued the Call to Action for Building a Marriage and Childbearing Culture in the New Era, which included six aspects, such as valuing marriage and childbearing, respecting the activity of childbearing, marrying and bearing children at the right age, and optimizing fertility and the promoting high-quality childrearing. These discussions cover topics like child-rearing, family education and traditions, traditional virtues, and social morales for the new era, and have received a positive response from all sectors of society.


China Daily: The association recently released the Call to Action for Building a Marriage and Childbearing Culture in the New Era, which promotes marrying and bearing children at the appropriate age and a “high quality childrearing” approach. The marriage and childbearing age for modern young people has been significantly postponed. How do you comment on this phenomenon? Many young people say that marrying and having children at the right age means losing opportunities for career and personal development. What is your view on this?


Wang Pei’an: As industrialization, urbanization, and modernization progress to new levels, the average age for young people to marry and have their first child continues to be postponed. According to statistics, in 2020, the average age of the first marriage for Chinese men and women was 29.4 and 28.0, which is a delay of 3.63 and 3.95 years compared to the number in 2010. There are various reasons why young people are postponing marriage and childbearing, including objective factors such as longer educational commitments and rising costs of marriage and childbearing, as well as subjective reasons, such as their view of marriage and family as constraints, thereby opting for later marriages and births. Additionally, marriage and childbearing may also conflict with employment and career development.


The concern that marrying and having children at the right age means losing opportunities for career and personal development does exist in real life. Childbearing, to some extent, may consume substantial time and energy from young people, especially the time and energy of young women, which can influence their job promotions, career development and even job security. Currently, the state is enhancing the construction of childbearing support policy systems. Various local governments are continually optimizing childbearing leave systems and have introduced a series of economic and time arrangement support measures. All these solutions aim to clear people’s path to marrying and childbearing at the right age, and ensure that young people’s careers and personal developments are minimally affected during the process.


We advocate for marriage and childbearing at the appropriate age, which means encouraging young people to do what they should do at certain age stages: to date when it is time to date, to get married when it is time to marry, and to have children when it is time to have children. Balancing marriage and childbearing at the appropriate age with career development requires, on one hand, refining societal evaluation methods, respecting the societal value of childbearing, and fully recognizing the importance of young people marrying and having children at the right age. On the other hand, it is essential to improve mechanisms where the nation, society, families, and businesses jointly share childbearing costs, and build a childbearing-friendly society. This ensures that businesses will not suffer economic losses from employing childbearing-age individuals, especially women. It alleviates the dilemma women face between childbearing and employment, eliminating the concern and anxiety childbearing-age individuals might have with regard to the possibility of losing opportunities in career and personal development due to having children.


China Daily: The Call to Action indicates its advocacy of gender equality and shared responsibilities of child-rearing between couples. What does this proposal mean for achieving a moderate level of fertility?


Wang Pei’an: Gender inequality in the domestic sphere, to some extent, escalates the conflict between work and home responsibilities for employed women. Influenced by traditional Chinese culture, the division of roles with men being the main providers and women responsible for domestic duties has persisted. Employed women face the dual burdens of work and home responsibilities, which increases the opportunity cost of childbearing. Women who are on an upward trajectory in their careers are reluctant or even afraid to have children.


International experiences demonstrate that in societies with well-established gender equality, there’s a positive relationship between the degree of gender equality and fertility levels. Gender equality and shared responsibilities will not only strengthen marital bonds and enhance the quality of marriages, providing stable support for childbearing, but will also help reduce domestic burdens and life pressures on women. This allows working women to better balance work and family, increasing their willingness to have children. We need to maximize the positive impact of gender equality on improving fertility levels, making the shared responsibility of child-rearing a societal norm and a common practice. This will help China reach a moderate fertility level and serve as a crucial foundation for high-quality population development.


China Daily: Different regions are now actively exploring supportive policies for childbearing, such as offering childbirth allowances, extending maternity and paternity leaves, and establishing inclusive childcare institutions to reduce the costs of childbirth and upbringing. As our future plan is to create a childbearing-friendly society, what other areas of improvement should be emphasized?


Wang Pei’an: Since the 19th Party Congress, the central government has issued the “Decision on Improving Birth Policies to Promote Long-Term Balanced Population Growth”, as well as “Guiding Opinions on Further Improving and Implementing Measures for Supporting Active Childbearing”. Local governments have also introduced various supportive measures, such as including childcare expenses for children under three as a tax deduction factor for personal income tax collection, experimenting with childbirth allowances, child-rearing subsidies, operational subsidies for childcare institutions, extending maternity leave, and introducing paternity leave. However, the effects of these supportive policies for childbearing need time to emerge. We need to be patient in implementing policies and observing their effects, but we must also be proactive. We must strive to promote a childbearing-friendly society to reduce the burdens of child-rearing and education on families and encourage balanced population growth in the long term. Specifically, efforts should focus on six areas:


First, strengthen economic support. Enhance tax, housing, and other support policies. Prioritize education fairness and balance the supply of high-quality educational resources. Double down on improving the housing support system, develop government-subsidized housing, and alleviate accommodation difficulties faced by new urban residents and young people. Housing policies should favor families with multiple children. We should also establish incentive mechanisms for employers under the rule of law to protect employees’ childbearing rights, and increase financial support for enterprises that provide maternal and infant care, childcare services, related vocational training, and consumer goods.


Second, improve the childcare service system. Increase the supply of inclusive childcare services. Expand the capabilities of community childcare services, and improve infant care facilities and other public services. Support qualified businesses in providing welfare-oriented childcare services for employees. Reduce the operational costs of childcare institutions. Improve policies related to land, housing, finance, banking, and talent, and encourage local governments to support inclusive childcare institutions. Enhance the quality of childcare services. Launch dedicated campaigns to establish national demonstration cities for infant and toddler care services. Progressively build a professional qualification entry mechanism for childcare practitioners under the rule of law.


Third, optimize support for time arrangements. We should enhance protection during childbirth and child-rearing processes, such as implementing flexible work schedules, to help employees balance work and family relationships and promote fair employment and career development. In accordance with practical circumstances, refine mechanisms for the reasonable sharing of labor costs during leaves, clarify the responsibilities of relevant parties, and take effective measures to ensure employees’ benefits during their leaves.


Fourth, increase intergenerational care support. Strengthen policy support for intergenerational care. Encourage models of care such as grandparenting and familial mutual assistance. Incorporate intergenerational care into family childcare service centers. Explore the possibility of including elderly involvement in infant and toddler care as a part of domestic services and provide childcare subsidies in the form of meal vouchers, pension subsidies, travel discounts, free park admissions, and more. Establish and improve the incentive, evaluation, and oversight mechanisms for elderly participation in intergenerational childcare.


Fifth, enhance the guidance on cultural values. It is essential to provide guidance on young people’s views on love, marriage, and family, and we should strive to advocate values such as self-cultivation, harmonious family relations, intergenerational heritage, and the importance of upbringing. Fully utilize the advantages of family planning associations and other mass organizations, as well as various media, to continuously promote campaigns of creating happy families, and communicate traditional virtues like respecting the elderly, loving the young, marital harmony, and frugality. Advocate for harmony within families to foster a peaceful environment, friendly neighborhoods, benevolent communities, and a harmonious society. Launch a new family culture building project, subtly influencing societal views through excellent film and TV works and online content. Organize and create a series of uplifting literary and artistic works to tell China’s stories of love, harmonious families, and happy lives in the new era. Promote family-friendly cities, communities, and organizations nationwide. Focus on breaking old customs such as extravagant bride prices and strengthen the guidance on love, marriage, and family views among rural youths. Advocate for the incorporation of new marriage and fertility culture into village regulations and civil rules, and facilitate the building of rural cultural civility.


Sixth, establish and improve supportive policies for family development. As the main body for childbearing and upbringing, the family is both the direct bearer and beneficiary of childbirth. We should raise the importance of promoting family development to a national strategy, and improve the policy system that supports family development. We should research and introduce policies beneficial to family development, and create a cultural atmosphere that promotes family development, thereby supporting the building and growth of families.


China Daily: In 2022, the China Family Planning Association initiated the first batch of marriage and fertility culture-building pilot projects in 20 places, including the Miyun District of Beijing. Up to now, what success stories and practices have emerged?


Wang Pei’an: To put the spirit of the 20th Party Congress and the central government’s decision on optimizing fertility policies into meaningful practice, and to give full play to the role of the Family Planning Association in promoting the building of a marital and childbearing culture in the new era, the China Family Planning Association started a nationwide pilot project on marriage and childbearing culture building in 2022, designating 20 cities (or regions) as pilot areas. Over the past year, these pilot areas have proactively adapted to new situations and requirements, and actively carried out six actions including surveys, publicity platform upgrades, and revisions of village regulations and civil rules. With extensive public campaigns, they have promoted concepts such as “marriage at the right age, high-quality childbirth, gender equality, shared responsibility, and intergenerational harmony,” and communicated traditional Chinese virtues of personal cultivation, filial piety, and harmonious families. This facilitated the creation of a supportive environment and social atmosphere for unlocking childbearing potential and promoting the healthy and harmonious development of families, which garnered some experiences and guiding practices for building the marital and fertility culture of the new era.


We dedicated efforts to public awareness campaigns. For the building of a marriage and childbearing culture and to provide the right guidance on marriage and childbearing concepts, public campaigns must be our primary solution. In pilot areas, public campaigns were conducted, including issuing advocacy statements, collecting promotional slogans, holding knowledge contests, producing promotional films, and distributing promotional posters, in order to promote the marriage and childbearing culture of the new era. Various regions have also pushed innovations in mediums, forms, and methods of promotion, where campaigns are combined with local cultural characteristics and traditional customs, thus combining campaigns and public guidance with engaging and enjoyable content. Many places have produced short films and videos, integrating the new era’s marriage and childbearing culture into artistic works, thereby enhancing the promotional impact. In Qian’nan Prefecture of Guizhou Province, the Family Planning Association launched a collection campaign of folk songs related to the new era’s marriage and childbearing culture. They organized ethnic minority groups to promote new marriage and childbearing culture in the new era through Bouyei folk songs and Miao verses. In the Dazu District of Chongqing, the Family Planning Association established a certificate issuance hall, marriage and childbearing counseling rooms, and a marriage and childbearing cultural display hall at the marriage registration office. They delved deeply into the excellent marriage and childbearing cultural connotations contained in the Dazu rock carvings and designed and produced promotional items with local characteristics.


We focused on the importance of building our capabilities. Strengthening grassroots teams, sites, and mechanisms is the foundation for achieving a marital and childbearing culture in the new era. Some areas publicly recruited volunteers to form grassroots public campaign teams, while others established expert groups to offer professional support. In terms of site construction, some areas have built new publicity sites in village community service centers, while others integrated various service sites with marital and childbearing cultural elements. Regarding mechanism building, various areas have explored the “party leadership, government guidance, association-led, departmental collaboration, and public participation” cooperative mechanism, pooling resources from various departments such as publicity, health, and civil affairs to jointly promote this cultural initiative.


We expanded the connotation of integration. Adhering to our value guidance, we integrated the excellent traditional culture of the Chinese nation into the building of the new era’s marriage and childbearing culture. For example, the Family Planning Association of Lijiang City of Yunnan Province integrated the essence of traditional marital customs into the new era’s marriage and childbearing culture. They achieved this integration by organizing traditional Dongba wedding performances, promoting concepts of the Naxi ethnic group’s marriage customs, such as marrying at the appropriate age, eliminating dowry practices, and promoting equal marriage and childbearing rights and responsibilities between spouses. In addition, pilot areas have integrated the new era’s marriage and childbearing culture into the daily lives of the people. In rural areas, actions to revise village regulations and civil rules have been carried out, incorporating the new era’s marriage and childbearing culture into these regulations and family teachings, guiding people to voluntarily promote such values and conduct self-education. In urban areas, the new era’s marriage and childbearing culture was integrated into community management, providing families with guidance and services on topics such as youth relationships and marriage, fertility and childbearing, reproductive health education, and child-rearing knowledge.


We improved our performance by focusing on serving the people. Each pilot area, under the principle of delivering “what the Party and government need, what the public urgently requires, and what the association can offer,” has combined the promotion of the new era’s marital and childbearing culture with the consideration of the public’s needs for fertility and childrearing support as well as family health. They have helped people understand, internalize, and practice this new culture through the enjoyment of public services. For example, the Ningbo Family Planning Association has set up a “Penguin Dad Studio” to organize various parent-child activities, community services, and volunteer events, which set a great example for promoting shared parenting responsibilities, and mobilized parents in promoting, improving, and practicing the new culture through their actions. In Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, the Association hosted collective public welfare weddings, giving newlyweds marital and childbearing handbooks and “love packages,” advocating new and civilized marital customs, and abandoning the old and backward traditions such as expensive dowries and lavish celebrations, thereby leading the way in starting new wedding trends.


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Cite This Page

王培安 (Wang Pei'an). "Interview with Wang Pei'an, Executive Vice President of China Family Planning Association: Promoting a Marriage and Childbearing Culture in the New Era to Every Household and Creating a Social Environment Friendly to Childbearing [专访中国计生协常务副会长王培安:推动新时代婚育文化走进千家万户 营造生育友好的社会环境]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in China Daily [中国日报], June 13, 2023

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