Yichang Government Encourages Civil Servants, Party Members to Have Second Children

By Liu Jiaying and Han Wei

(Beijing) — Family-planning officials in a city in central China have removed an open online letter that urged civil servants and Communist Party members to have a second child to reverse the declining birthrate there.

"Young comrades should lead by example, and older ones should educate and urge their children" to have a second child, the Health and Family Planning Commission of Yichang said in an open letter posted on its website on Sunday.

Officials did not explain why the letter was taken down.

Yichang — a city of 4 million in Hubei province — was the only city known to have issued an official "request" to encourage parenthood since the country scrapped its three-decade-long one-child policy in October 2015.

The city also promised longer maternity leave, free visits to a gynecologist for women and fertility checks for couples before marriage.

The official push for more babies came as the city's birthrate dropped below replacement levels in recent years. There were 9.2 newborns per 1,000 people in the city in 2015, down from 11.5 in the previous year, and well below the national average of 12 babies per 1,000, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed.

The city's fertility rate has been less than 1 percent from 2000, which meant many women of childbearing age — those 18 to 45 years old — were choosing not to have children.

China's new family-planning policy allows all couples to have up to two children.

But the number of couples eager to have a second child has fallen below government expectations.

"The policy change will do little to sustain the country's population because birth rates have been too low for so long," wrote Huang Wenzheng, a biostatistics expert at Johns Hopkins University, and Liang Jianzhang, chairman of International Ltd., which focuses on labor market studies, in a commentary published on Caixin.

A report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences last year said China's fertility rate was hovering above the global warning line of 1.3 babies per woman. If it were to dip further, the country would be stuck in a "low fertility trap" with a shrinking labor pool that won't be able to support its rapidly aging population.

Other major cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen, and Zhejiang province have pledged to provide longer maternity leave to encourage couples to have a second child, recent media reports showed.

This story has been updated to reflect that the Yichang online letter was removed from the city's website.

Contact reporter Han Wei (; editor Poornima Weerasekara (

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