China needs people to have more babies.
Yesterday, the State Council published plans to improve early childhood care and infant services to take some pressure off new parents. The “guiding opinions” encourage employers to allow parents to be more flexible with their working hours and parental leave, and also says China should create preferential policies for new private daycare centers.
With a sharply dropping birth rate and a shrinking work force, China is facing a population crisis. Due to tough working hours and the high cost of raising a child, many couples are deterred from having one child, let alone two, the new limit imposed by family planning laws.
In recent years, parents have been further deterred by a string of controversies at young child and infant care centers. The plan, written last month but made public on May 9, follows on the National Health Commission’s calls during the annual meeting of the legislature in March for the government to provide better early childhood care.
The State Council’s policy plan aims to alleviate all of these issues, presumably with the hope that more options for well-regulated care for children under the age of 3 — along with better leave, subsidies for care, and parenting classes — will encourage couples to have more kids.