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Trending in China: Is Education To Blame For China’s Falling Fertility Rate?

By Carol Yuan / Oct 22, 2020 06:26 PM / Trending Stories

What's trending?

The term "involution" (内卷化) is trending on Chinese social media and is being “blamed” for why “too much education” is leading to young people not wanting to have children.

What's the story?

A social media video studio invited some professionals to discuss why more young people in China are choosing not to have children, with the term “内卷化” trending across social media. The concept directly translates as “involution” but more accurately describes the phenomenon where a previously useful social process starts to stagnate.

In this particular case, some people are arguing that the previously beneficial process of opening up access to the best education and other social goods has reached the point of “involution.” Competition for the best school places has intensified, and the cost of raising children has subsequently risen.

But according to Tang Yinan, a researcher from the China Institute of Fudan University, the supposed “involution” in education reflects the opening of more competitive fields to ordinary people. Tang believes that excessive competition in China's test-oriented education system does not mean we have reached “involution” and that "educational involution" is a false concept.

What are people saying online?

Comments on social media have become polarized. Some people believe that Tang is just an armchair expert. They believe that educational and financial pressure is the fundamental reason for China’s low fertility, and the government hasn’t done enough to solve the problem. "I can't see any hope in my life, and I'm under great (financial and working) pressure, why do I want to give birth to a baby?” one popular comment read.

Other people blame the low fertility rate on the irresponsibility of young people. "Individuals who have no inclination to have children are simply attributing it to the rising cost of children's education; this is not scientific or objective. The most fundamental reason is that some young people have a bad sense of responsibility, think about themselves too much, and are unwilling to make sacrifices," another comment said.

Contact editor Marcus Ryder (

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