Aging meets "fewer births" again-

  How to break the game to meet the needs of "nurturing" and "education"

  Editor's note

  At present, people from all walks of life are very concerned about the upcoming announcement of the results of the seventh national census, which has also triggered people's discussion on the issue of elderly care and childbirth.

On the one hand, my country's aging base is large and fast, and on the other, the total fertility rate has fallen below the international warning line.

There are old and small, not only about the tomorrow of each small family, but also about the future of the country and the nation.

  How do you view the trend of population changes in our country?

How to alleviate the double anxiety of young parents about raising children and providing for the elderly?

What are the lessons for us from the practice of dealing with population transition in foreign countries?

Our reporter conducted an in-depth interview on this.

  Ms. Yang Hua (pseudonym), who has been married for three years and has a daughter, has recently received news from her mother frequently.

Either she fell in love with a pair of grandchildren while walking with her neighbor aunt, or Yang Hua's Faxiao, who stayed and worked in her hometown, was pregnant with the second treasure.

Yang Hua understands the traditional concept of "multiple children, more blessings" for the elderly, but for his dual-income family with mortgage on his back, raising a child seems to be a "full load".

  "Giving a second child financially means changing to a big house and double the investment in education. We can't afford it. In terms of energy, I don't want to give up my job and become a full-time mother. I can only rely on the help of both parents to bring the children." Yang Hua reluctantly Say.

As a typical "421" family, Yang Hua's troubles reflect the realistic pressure of the only-child generation-the difficulty of both parenting and providing for the elderly.

Looking at "everyone" through the "small family", the deepening of the aging degree is superimposing with the sluggish fertility rate, which has become a practical problem facing the entire society.

  Statistics show that by the end of 2019, my country's population of 60 years old and above will reach 253.88 million.

According to related predictions, during the "14th Five-Year Plan" period, my country's population of 60 years old and above will exceed 300 million, from a mild aging to a moderate aging stage, and at the same time, the problem of "fewer births" will breed.

In 2020, my country's total fertility rate has dropped to 1.49, falling below the internationally recognized warning line of 1.5, and the fertility level is at risk of further decline.

  On one side is "getting old" and on the other side is "not having children". How can we keep up with the general trend of demographic changes and better respond to the needs of providing for the elderly and raising children?

  The trend of "one old and one young" is overwhelming, but our resilience still exists

  At the 2021 Economic Summit of the China High-Level Development Forum held not long ago, many experts bluntly stated that the aging of the population will become an unavoidable issue in my country’s future social development.

More experts describe this trend as "slamming on the face", believing that it will accelerate during the "14th Five-Year Plan" and "15th Five-Year Plan" period.

  "'Farring birth rate' is a very important issue facing many countries. my country's total fertility rate has long been lower than the level of natural replacement, which has brought severe challenges to economic and social development, especially population structure." Director of the Policy Research Center of the Ministry of Civil Affairs Wang Jiexiu said in his speech.

  "The aging of the population is also a worldwide problem." Yang Gen, a professor at Beijing Vocational College of Social Management and Dean of the Senior Research Institute, analyzed, paying particular attention to the acceleration of aging, the rise in the dependency ratio of the elderly, and the issue of "get old before getting rich".

It took 70 to 80 years for developed countries such as the United Kingdom to transform from an adult society to an elderly society, and the per capita GDP during the same period was US$5,000 to US$10,000; while it took only about 20 years for my country to complete this transition, and the per capita GDP was much lower than that of developed countries. Level.

Between now and 2030, our pension burden may become heavier and heavier.

  Yuan Xin, a professor at the School of Economics of Nankai University and director of the Research Center for Aging Development Strategy of Nankai University, cited data from the United Nations' World Population Prospects 2019, saying that from 2019 to 2050, China's population base will face a triple transformation-the population of children and children will decrease, 0~ The population and proportion of 14-year-old children decreased from 240 million, accounting for 16.7%, to 200 million, accounting for 14.2%; the working-age population decreased, and the proportion of working-age population aged 15-59 decreased from 910 million, accounting for 65.2%, to 720 million The population and proportion of the elderly increased from 250 million, accounting for 18.1%, to 490 million, accounting for 34.6%.

  Various signs indicate that our country is facing a huge transition in its population structure.

"For decades, the main contradiction between my country's population and economic and social development has changed from a population-based contradiction to a population structural contradiction." Original new judgment.

  In the face of changes in the demographic situation, people are worried: "How can society afford so many elderly people? Will we face the dilemma that we still need to go out to work in our 80s?" "The demographic turning point is coming. After the dividend period disappears, more society will be exposed. problem"……

  In Yuanxin's view, the so-called "demographic turning point" is not always the case, and the new "demographic dividend" is still expected.

"Although it is foreseeable that China's population will experience negative growth in the future, it is important to remember that the basic national conditions of China's huge population will not change." Yuan Xin said that aging and "fewer births" have increased the challenges of economic and social development, but opportunities still remain. : First, the burden of social support for children and children has been reduced, and health and education have been improved as a whole; second, the working-age population is shrinking while its scale is still huge, and the accumulation of human capital is increasingly strong; third, there is still a lot of potential for the human resources of the elderly to tap.

  Yang Ge, an associate researcher at the Institute of Population and Labor Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes that we have room to tap the potential for the second "demographic dividend", "China is still the world's most populous country. A large-scale workforce with basic education level is needed. China’s economic development over the past few decades has contributed a rich'demographic dividend'. With the continuous improvement of education level, the workforce with higher education will become a supporting force for the upgrading of industrial structure. At the same time, we must see a huge domestic The consumer market is the key to maintaining resilience in China's economic development. In addition, our total population dependency ratio is still low, and it is in a golden period conducive to economic development."

  Changing family size shrinks and traditional parenting concepts decline

  In Shandong, dubbed "China's most child-loving province," Wang Fang (pseudonym), a young man born in the 1985s, revealed that if his peers around the same age wish to have a second child, he decided to give birth as early as the policy was released. Many people are not willing to give birth.

"After all, the concept of our generation has changed. Late marriage, late childbirth and even non-marriage and infertility are more common."

  The number of births per year is a focus of attention.

In recent years, this data has not risen but declined-the number of births in 2016 and 2017 reached 17.86 million and 17.23 million, respectively, a record high since 2000, but it dropped sharply thereafter, dropping to 15.23 million in 2018. In 2019, it dropped to 14.65 million people.

  In addition to the decline, Yang Genlai also observed that the current fertility rates are quite unbalanced. The high fertility rates are concentrated in some underdeveloped areas in the central and western regions, while the fertility rates in megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai and some key cities are not high, or even far away. Lower than the national average.

  The data reflects the change in people's concept of fertility.

Raising children to guard against old age and having many children are traditional concepts deeply rooted in the hearts of the older generation, but some young people are somewhat "negative" in this regard.

  He Dan, director of the China Population and Development Research Center, said that nowadays, some young people do not go home during the New Years and holidays, because they are hiding from their elders for urging marriage and giving birth.

During the "14th Five-Year Plan" period, the size of women of childbearing age in my country has dropped sharply. Post-90s and post-00s will become the main body of childbirth. The concept of marriage and childbirth has changed rapidly.

  Zhihu user "Wonder Wangda" analyzes that the decline in childbirth willingness is the result of a combination of many factors, but it is essentially a problem of the balance of input and income and opportunity cost, that is, the cost of childbirth is too high for many young people.

At the same time, he expressed his anxiety for the elderly, and said frankly: "The companionship of children to the elderly is weakening. It is normal for children to be separated from the elderly when they grow up. Children who work in first-tier cities are already excellent without gnawing on the elderly."

  According to the reporter's observation, the phenomenon of adult children living separately from their parents is very common.

As parents get older, their children will encounter many difficulties in taking care of the elderly, such as shortage of manpower and long living distance.

  Yang Ge believes that the changes in family structure have weakened the function of the family for providing for the elderly, and have also caused changes in the concept of providing for the elderly.

The family in our country is showing a trend of miniaturization, and the number of members is declining.

Data released by the National Bureau of Statistics show that the average household size in 2010 was 3.1 persons, while this indicator was 4.41 persons in 1982.

The traditional multi-generation compound family has gradually disappeared, the nuclear family has become the main body of the family type, and the proportion of single-person families and empty-nest families has continued to rise.

Contemporary young people are more pursuing a free and independent life, traditional family concepts are gradually marginalized, and the focus of intergenerational relations has shifted downward.

The concept of old-age care has become more diversified, and the demands for old-age care responsibilities and methods have become more tolerant, and socialized old-age care is being accepted and respected.

  Asking to support the family is the starting point of friendly "raising" and "education"

  When aging and “few births” follow, like Yang Hua, the group who “cannot serve their parents and dare not have children” is most concerned about whether they can get more tangible benefits in the two aspects of “birth” and “old care”. support?

  Yang Genlai noticed that various localities have successively explored childbirth support, such as Beijing's adjustment of reproductive medical expenses, Henan's revision of population and family planning regulations, and Guizhou's regulations that female employees cannot be dismissed due to pregnancy and childbirth.

The effectiveness of these policies remains to be seen.

Judging from international experience, the fertility rate has changed differently after the policy was introduced.

Among them, Sweden and France have more significant effects of encouraging fertility policies, and the fertility rate has increased significantly; Japan and Germany have a slightly smaller effect of encouraging fertility policies, and the fertility rate has slowly increased.

This is mainly related to the time of policy introduction, the intensity of implementation, and historical population control policies.

Combining the experience of countries with low fertility rates in the world, my country may provide fertility support from the perspectives of increasing childbirth subsidies, extending maternity and parental leave, improving women’s employment environment and childcare service system, and increasing medical subsidies.

  "Maternity support is a systematic project." He Dan gave specific suggestions. One is to improve the pillar status of the maternity insurance system in my country's social security and expand insurance coverage.

The second is to encourage and support inclusive childcare services, and include care services for infants and children under 3 years old into basic public services.

The third is to explore the establishment of a work-family balance mechanism and advocate the creation of "family-friendly institutions."

  Yang Ge also holds a similar view. Only by constructing a comprehensive family support plan to support family fertility and child growth at multiple levels from marriage, love, childbirth, employment, etc., can the willingness to reproduce while adapting to the values ​​of young people can be boosted. .

  After solving the problem of nurturing the young, how can we realize the nurturing of the elderly?

  "First, we need to face up to the problem. The current old-age security system and old-age services are still lagging behind." Yang Gen gave an example to analyze the local understanding of the old-age model of "home-based, community-based, institution-based supplement, and medical care combined". There is a deviation, that the elderly care is divided into three models: home care, community care and institution care.

In action, there has been an emphasis on community and institutional care while ignoring home care.

Many elderly people have experienced the "two worlds of ice and fire" in the elderly care sector: on the one hand, it is hard to find a bed in a nursing home that is affordable and well-living; on the other hand, there are a large number of high-standard and luxurious elderly care institutions.

This shows that our old-age service facilities are not yet complete and the quality needs to be improved.

At the same time, we should realize that homes, communities, and institutions are not contradictions, but communities.

  "The elderly are not homogeneous, they are heterogeneous." Yuanxin emphasized that the arrangements for the pension system should be treated differently, guided by categories, and implemented according to needs.

For example, the old-age allowance system and the old-age allowance system adopt age-based payment methods, ignoring differences in the physical and family conditions of the elderly.

This method of granting subsidies is only icing on the cake for high-income elderly people, and it cannot solve the problem fundamentally for low-income elderly people, especially those in difficulties.

In addition, Yuanxin called on the long-term care insurance system to become a formal institutional arrangement as soon as possible.

The data of the fourth sample survey on the living conditions of the elderly in China’s urban and rural areas shows that the health status of the elderly is not optimistic, with a disability and semi-disability rate as high as 18.3%, and the general pension and medical insurance cannot meet their care needs.

  Solving the needs of "nurturing" and "education" is a long-term process that cannot be accomplished overnight.

He Dan concluded that in the past 40 years, my country has achieved rapid economic and social development through the implementation of the family planning policy to enhance the adaptability of the population to economic and social development.

When my country's population situation has undergone significant changes, the top-level design has also been adjusted accordingly.

In 2016, the "Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council on Implementing the Comprehensive Two-Child Policy Reform and Improving the Management of Family Planning Services" was released.

The outline of the "14th Five-Year Plan" proposes to "implement the national strategy to actively respond to the aging of the population" and "optimize the fertility policy and enhance the inclusiveness of the fertility policy."

In He Dan's view, a series of decision-making arrangements reflects our deepening understanding of the laws of social changes and population development.

In order to promote the long-term balanced development of the population, the improvement of related supporting policies may be the focus of the next steps of governments at all levels.

  (Our reporter Li Danyang and Li Ting)