In-depth attention丨How to crack the shortcomings of people's livelihood behind "cannot afford to live"

  Han Yadong

  On July 26, the official website of the National Medical Insurance Bureau announced that it has clearly required all localities to include the cost of insured female employees for having three children into the payment scope of maternity insurance benefits, and pay maternity medical expenses and maternity allowances in full and in a timely manner according to regulations; A few days ago, the National Health Commission responded that after May 31, 2021, three children can be given birth, and the woman who gives birth to three children enjoys the national legal maternity leave for 98 days; the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security is drafting special rights and interests such as maternity leave and breastfeeding leave for female employees. Work plan for law enforcement operations.

At the moment, a package of reproductive support measures is or will be implemented.

  The “Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council on Optimizing the Fertility Policy to Promote the Long-term Balanced Development of the Population” was issued a few days ago, and a major decision was made to implement the three-child policy and supporting support measures. In terms of the cost of parenting education, 10 supporting measures have been proposed.

All relevant departments have taken action one after another.

  Procreation is a means for human beings to reproduce themselves. The family gestates life and reproduces offspring, which should be respected and supported by the whole society.

In recent years, the fertility level in my country has been decreasing year by year. What are the main constraints?

What are the shortcomings of the people's livelihood behind the "cannot afford" and "cannot afford"?

How will the implementation of supporting measures reduce the burden on families raising children?

  The rapid increase in parenting costs is the main contradiction facing the population at present. The economic burden, child care, and women’s concerns about career development have become the main factors restricting fertility.

  In recent years, my country's population situation has undergone new changes, and the fertility level has declined year by year.

According to the seventh national census, the total fertility rate of women of childbearing age in my country in 2020 is 1.3, which is already at a relatively low level.

The total fertility rate represents the average number of children born to each woman during the childbearing age of women in a country or region. The total fertility rate of 2.1 is considered internationally to be the basic condition for achieving and maintaining intergenerational replacement.

The monitoring of births in the first half of 2021 shows that this year's birth population and fertility levels will still show a downward trend.

  At present, an important reason for the low fertility rate is that the cost of childbirth, raising and educating children in individual families is too high, so that the willingness of many parents to reproduce cannot be transformed into actual reproductive behavior.

Song Jian, deputy director and professor of the Population and Development Research Center of Renmin University of China, told reporters that with the improvement of living standards, prenatal and postnatal care has become a social consensus.

People don’t think about giving birth to a child, but providing as much as possible. High expectations mean high costs.

  Ou Xiaoli, Director of the Department of Social Development of the National Development and Reform Commission, said that the rapid increase in parenting costs is the main contradiction facing the population at present. "And other major factors restricting fertility.

  The economic pressure of people of childbearing age is prominently reflected in the burden of the "three educations".

Song Jian said that the burden of childbirth is mainly the cost of having a child, and the direct cost of having a child ranges from several thousand yuan to several tens of thousands of yuan. The burden of parenting varies from family to family and is a concrete manifestation of family economic conditions and parents' expectations of raising children; education The burden is relatively heavy, and a series of related costs such as extracurricular tutoring, school selection fees, and school district housing are all related to it.

In addition, economic concerns are also reflected in the stability of employment and the sense of security of housing. Only by living and working in peace can it be possible to give birth with confidence.

  Unattended infants and young children is another important factor restricting fertility.

Data from the "Seven Census" shows that the size of households in my country is now 2.62 persons, which is down from 3.1 persons in the "Six Census", and the family's function of raising children and providing for the aged is gradually weakening.

On the other hand, there are about 42 million infants and young children aged 0-3 in the country.

According to the survey, one-third of them have relatively strong demand for childcare services, but the actual supply is now about 5.5%, and the gap between supply and demand is still large.

  Work-family conflict is a difficult problem faced by professional women, and it is also one of the causes of fertility anxiety.

Yang Ge, an associate researcher at the Institute of Population and Labor Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, explained that because society’s expectations of women’s family responsibilities are much higher than men’s, women may be discriminated against in the job market. Women with childbirth plans may be excluded from the recruitment process. Outside, women who have already given birth may be hindered in the promotion process, which in turn reduces women's willingness to bear children.

  Cheng Dening, a professor at the School of Economics and Management of Wuhan University, told reporters that the cost of parenting children includes not only the direct costs of childbirth, raising, and educating children, but also the personal promotion and income earned by parents as a result of raising and educating a new child. Opportunity costs such as loss of opportunity.

Especially in first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, if professional women with a high level of education choose to have more children, their personal career development, promotion and income will be more affected, and the opportunity cost of having children will be higher.

  Reducing the pressure on childbirth and nurturing is a necessary condition for ensuring the smooth implementation of the childbirth policy.

The "14th Five-Year Plan" outlines for the first time "enhancing the inclusiveness of childbirth policies" and emphasizes "reducing the burden of family fertility, nurturing, and education."

In May 2021, the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee reviewed the "Decision on Optimizing Fertility Policies to Promote the Long-term Balanced Development of the Population," and pointed out that marriage, childbirth, parenting, and education should be considered together to improve the level of prenatal and postnatal care services and reduce family education expenditures.

The "Decision" released this time reiterated that "we will consider marriage, childbirth, parenting, and education as a whole to effectively resolve the worries of the masses."

  Optimizing the childbirth policy is not just a simple adjustment of the number of children from two to three children, but more importantly, the comprehensive deployment of supporting policies

  In recent years, the people's willingness to bear children has changed significantly, and the role of the fertility policy in regulating fertility behavior has been significantly weakened.

On January 1, 2016, the comprehensive two-child policy was officially implemented, but the number of births only rebounded significantly that year, and thereafter fell four times in a row.

  "After the implementation of the comprehensive two-child policy, a considerable proportion of families want to have a baby but dare not give birth." said Yang Wenzhuang, director of the Population and Family Department of the National Health Commission. The rapid increase in parenting costs is the main contradiction facing families at present in terms of education, housing, and employment. Other relevant economic and social policies have become the key to affecting family fertility choices.

  In May of this year, after the state announced the implementation of the three-child policy, online responses regarding "cannot afford" and "cannot afford" were concentrated.

Relevant economic and social policies and measures are not matched or connected, which is the pain point and difficulty that restricts the people's childbirth and upbringing.

In Song Jian's view, the pain points and difficulties of childbearing and nurturing actually reflect the shortcomings of people's livelihood in the process of economic and social development.

  For example, Yang Ge said that in first- and second-tier cities, the much-anticipated off-campus training and the chaos in school districts not only made parents miserable, but also damaged the physical and mental health of children.

This phenomenon is also reflected in the imbalance in the distribution of educational resources between urban and rural areas. Because basic education in rural areas is still weak, rural families with ample economic conditions and emphasis on education are willing to send their children to the local county or central city to study. The phenomenon of accompanying the elderly in school is common, triggering school districts. The housing effect is transmitted to small cities, significantly increasing the burden of family education.

However, this is not a simple education issue, but a reflection of social issues in the education field.

  To this end, the "Decision" clarified that supporting measures and the three-child birth policy should be put forward as a whole combination, requiring marriage, childbirth, parenting, and education to be considered as a whole, and proposed a package of support measures covering the entire life cycle.

  Yu Xuejun, deputy director of the National Health Commission, believes that the optimization of the birth policy is not just a simple adjustment of the number of children from two to three children, but more importantly, the comprehensive deployment of supporting policies.

"This is a comprehensive policy for economic and social development and to guarantee and improve people's livelihood." Cheng Dening believes that to achieve the goal of optimizing the fertility policy, it is not only the policy to liberalize three children, but also the marriage, childbirth, parenting, and Considering education as a whole can significantly reduce the cost of childbirth, nurturing and education. Only in this way can the diversified reproductive needs of the masses be met, the worries of couples of childbearing age can be solved, and the reproductive potential can be released.

  "Whether the'three-child policy' can play a role in increasing the fertility rate lies in the implementation of other supporting measures and the construction of a birth-friendly social environment to promote fertility policies and industries, taxation, social security, housing, education and other social economy Policy supporting links will enhance the wider tolerance of public policies for childbirth.” Yang Ge said.

  In Song Jian’s view, compared with the “two-child alone” policy in 2013 and the “two-child comprehensive” policy in 2016, the current round of policy adjustments is more vigorous and covers a more comprehensive scope, including education, medical care, housing, and taxation. Policies such as employment and employment cover almost all of the basic livelihood of the people, and will surely move the whole livelihood field to make up for the shortcomings.

  Carrying out a pilot program for parental leave, including the cost of infant and child care as a special additional deduction for individual tax, and a package of benefits for the people to solve the problem of "unwilling to give birth", "cannot afford" and "cannot afford"

  People are generally concerned about what kind of support measures are available to alleviate the burden of families with children.

The sixth part of the "Decision" puts forward a package of measures centering on "reducing the cost of childbirth, nurturing, and education."

For example, support qualified places to carry out parental leave pilots; research and promote the inclusion of infant and child care expenses under 3 years old into the special additional deduction of personal income tax; continue to increase the coverage of inclusive kindergartens, appropriately extend the length of stay in kindergartens or provide custody services; Time to connect with parents' off-duty time, etc.

  The dilemma of work-family conflict is an important factor that affects the willingness of professional women to bear children. A major measure proposed in the "Decision" is to "support the places where conditions permit to carry out parental leave trials for parents and improve the holiday labor cost sharing mechanism."

Cheng Dening believes that this initiative implements the concept of gender equality and strives to reverse the concept that childcare is the exclusive responsibility of women, which is of great significance to preventing female discrimination in employment.

If the cost of holiday labor is fully borne by the company, and only the mother has parental leave, it will cause the company to be unwilling to hire female labor, which will result in gender discrimination in the job market.

According to research from European countries, the increase in the share of fathers' share of childcare and housework has a positive effect on the fertility level.

  Economic subsidies are commonly used measures to encourage childbirth.

my country has included children's education in the special additional deduction scope in the 2019 IIT New Policy. The "Decision" further proposes to "research and promote the inclusion of infant and child care expenses under 3 years of age in the special additional deduction for personal income tax."

Yang Ge believes that there is still a lot of room for reforms in taxation policies to support childbirth. As conditions mature, it is also possible to consider including the income loss of women during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding, and child support for children under 3 years old as deductions; The fixed calculation method of the special additional deduction for children's education is transformed into the actual cost deduction method, and differentiated personal income tax deductions are constructed based on the number of children.

  In terms of parenting costs, a major problem currently exists is the lack of public inclusive childcare services.

Young parents work and have a strong demand for childcare services, but the corresponding supply has not kept up.

The National Health Commission will implement a special project for the expansion of inclusive childcare services and childcare construction during the 14th Five-Year Plan, expand investment within the central budget, and support the construction of comprehensive childcare service institutions and community childcare service facilities.

By the end of the "14th Five-Year Plan" period, the target of raising the number of supporters per 1,000 people from the current 1.8 to 4.5.

Support diversified supply, encourage qualified employers to provide childcare services for employees in the workplace, regulate the healthy development of family childcare services, and mobilize various entities such as state-owned enterprises, society, and capital to actively invest in the childcare industry.

  Reducing the burden of education is an important reproductive support measure.

With the implementation of the "three-child policy", the demand for admission will further increase.

The Ministry of Education will work with relevant departments to study, formulate, deploy and implement the fourth pre-school education action plan to further improve the level of universal pre-school education.

By 2025, the national gross enrollment rate in the three years before school will reach 90% or more, and the coverage of inclusive kindergartens will be further increased.

In addition, it will implement a guarantee mechanism that focuses on government investment, rationally share the family, and raise funds through other channels, and increase funding for children from families with financial difficulties to enter kindergartens.

  In the past, students’ end of school time was inconsistent with their parents’ off work time, causing the problem of "difficulty picking up children".

The Ministry of Education has made special arrangements for after-school services: Compulsory education schools must ensure that after school starts this fall, they will achieve full coverage of after-school services; ensure that the end time of after-school services is in line with the parents’ off-duty time, and launch the "5+2" model , It is carried out 5 working days a week, and it must be carried out for no less than 2 hours a day.

  To build a child-friendly society, there is still a lot of policy space in the future. It is necessary to solve the problems of people’s livelihood based on the current situation and promote the all-round development of people in the long run.

  The "Decision" implements the policy that a couple can have three children, cancels social support and other restrictive measures, cleans up and abolishes relevant penalties, and implements active childbirth support measures.

All relevant departments are studying and launching a series of measures to solve the problem of childbearing and parenting education.

The National Development and Reform Commission will work with relevant departments to formulate a policy implementation plan to further refine active childbirth support measures and ensure their implementation; the National Health Commission is studying and formulating (revising) the national professional qualification standards for childcare teachers and the "Criteria for the Establishment of Nursery Service Institutions" "Family Nursery School Management Measures" and other documents; the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security has adopted the implementation of special protection for female employees as a standard for assessing corporate integrity; the Ministry of Education has issued regulations to support the development of after-school services, summer care services, etc., to reduce the burden on children and adolescents.

  Cheng Dening believes that the biggest highlight of the "three-child policy" and supporting measures is the adherence to a systemic viewpoint, and that the policy of promoting childbirth and related economic and social policies are in the same direction.

"In fact, this policy does not simply focus on achieving the goals of increasing the number of births and increasing the fertility rate, but taking into account multiple policy goals. It is a planning and deployment in the overall situation of the party and the country's work and modernization."

  The problem of low fertility is a common problem faced by developed countries. Many countries have introduced many fertility support policies for this purpose, but the results have been mixed. It is particularly critical to explore fertility support measures suitable for my country's national conditions.

Yang Ge said that on the whole, the construction of my country's reproductive-friendly system has just started, and there is still a lot of room for future policies to build a reproductive-friendly society.

It is necessary to build a fertility support policy system, through the "combination of incentives and compatible policies" to encourage children of the right age, reduce parenting anxiety, reduce parenting costs, and promote the realization of an appropriate fertility level.

  Taking transportation resources as an example, Yang Ge said that in order to alleviate environmental pressure and urban congestion, restrictions on the purchase of cars have become a routine practice in many large cities.

Children are the main users of private car travel, and the car allocation plan in big cities can also be tilted towards families with underage children.

In 2020, Beijing will begin to implement a ranking of points based on households, and gradually allocate new energy vehicle indicators for car-free households.

The weight of children's points can be adjusted appropriately, so that part of the public resources can be tilted to parenting families, so as to convey support for family fertility.

  Building a child-friendly society is an important measure to realize my country's transformation from a country with a large population to a country with strong human capital, to achieve high-quality development, and to build a modern and powerful socialist country.

"The direct goal of the policy is childbirth, but the more important goal is nurturing and education. It is necessary to solve people's livelihood problems based on the current situation, but also to promote the all-round development of people in the long-term." Cheng Dening said.

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