In Brief

China facing growing fertility crisis

Ageing population prompted end of one-child policy – but birth rate remains stubbornly low

China is facing a fertility crisis that threatens its position as the most populous country in the world.

According to the CIA World Factbook, China’s total fertility rate stood at 1.6 children per woman in 2017, below that of the US and UK and far less than the 2.1% rate needed to keep the population steady.

In recent years, Chinese authorities have sought to boost the birth rate, first by scrapping the contentious decades-long one-child policy in 2015, then this year abolishing the draconian Family Planning Commission which enforced the policy.

However, the effects of the one-child policy are proving harder to overcome, especially with more women choosing to have children later in life on account of the high cost of living, long working hours, unfriendly maternity policies and high child care costs.

CNN says environmental issues including pollution could also be factors, particularly for male infertility.

The broadcaster says another consequence of the one-child policy is an inverted population pyramid, with a shrinking number of workers to support a growing ageing population.

Another problem is China’s 40% conception rate, well below countries like the United States, Thailand and Malaysia, which have a 60% to 65% rate, according to a report by Qianzhan Industry Research Institute.

The fertility crisis has led to a surge in government-licensed clinics offering IVF treatment and an increase in the number of Chinese couples seeking to pursue fertility treatment abroad, with the US and Thailand among the top destinations.

It has also spawned a new reality TV show, The UFO Fertility Show, which has proved an unlikely hit, attracting 43 million viewers when it first aired earlier this year.

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