China is not quite at the forefront of nations with a looming demographic crises, but they are taking an outside-the-box approach to incentivizing the creation of young people. Two Chinese academics, with the backing of the Chinese government, have proposed double-taxing childless couples and allotting that money into something called a “maternity fund”.
China, already in a tedious economic position, is right to be concerned about the burden that the elderly will pose on the younger generations. Pensions and healthcare costs for an elder class set to realize increasing life expectancies must be accounted for by an equivalent or greater number of young people contributing to the public coffers in order to cover these expenses, which are expected to be higher than ever.
However, an examination of China’s population curve shows that a steady rise in population beginning in approximately 1950 is set to peak around 2030, at approximately 1.415 billion people. At that point, China’s largest demographic age range, those currently aged 25 to 29, will be in their early forties. The nation’s second largest demographic, currently aged 45 to 49, will be approaching retirement and, not long after, their twilight years, when failing health and associated costs become inevitable. While births have occurred at an increasing rate in China over the past two decades, the increasing pace is seemingly not rapid enough to keep up with the amount of elderly whose pensions and health bills will need to be paid for by 2030 and beyond.
China ranks behind only Japan and South Korea in terms of the growing number of old people in the nation. Still, according to other metrics – namely, the ‘old age dependency ratio’, which measures the number of people aged 65 and older per 100 working-age people – the situation in China is not nearly as troubling as several other nations. Japan’s figure is dire, with its ratio of 72 by the year 2050 indicating a serious shortage of young workers to support a graying population (the larger the figure, the worse a nation’s demographic issues will be). Spain (ratio of 67), South Korea (66), Italy (62), Germany (60), France (44) and Great Britain (42) are all projected to be in far worse shape than China (39) by the time 2050 rolls around.
But China isn’t taking any chances on its population reaching the depths of a nation such as Japan. Plus, the fallout from 30-plus years of one-child policy is sure to show its impact eventually – it already has, to an extent – and now the Chinese government is doing a 180-degree turn when it comes to its stance on young people. It’s decided to take a proactive approach, choosing – as the Chinese government so often does – punishment over enticement when it comes to literally forcing the action.
On August 14th, an article authored by two professors from Nanjing University was published in the Xinhua Daily paper. Titled “Boosting fertility: a new task for China’s population development in the New Era”, the article detailed proposals for boosting “fertility” – in other words, ensuring that the Chinese people pump out more little obedient future Communists to not only ensure the population remains stable, but expands as many of its world rivals experience unavoidable population decline.
‘[The government] can stipulate that all citizens under the age of 40, regardless of gender, should transfer a certain percentage of their salary each year to the birth fund. Those families who are to give birth a second time or more can apply for subsidy from the fund, so as to compensate for the short-term income loss caused by the labor. As for other citizens who fail to give birth a second time, they won’t be allowed to withdraw their money from the fund until retirement.’ (Xinhua Daily via The Diplomat)
Considering that the Xinhua Daily is owned by the Jiangsu Provincial Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the professors’ words can be taken to have the stamp of approval from China’s Communist leadership.
The message is clear: reproduce by your own will, or be coerced into reproduction.
Days later, the message was doubled-down upon by a professor from the (also Communist Party-owned) China University of Political Science and Law. He wrote that not only should every citizen be compelled to give a percentage of their income to a “birth fund” – except those who have two-plus children, who can get a subsidy/exemption from the tax – an additional “tax” should be levied upon couples with two incomes and no children.
“From the perspective of rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, birth rate is important not only to the current government but also to the generation after generation of the Chinese nation,” the professor argued. (The Diplomat)
Essentially, couples with no children will be double-taxed until they choose to start popping out the little runts. There is no word on whether the proposal would allow an exception for those biologically incapable of having children. Perhaps the government is hard at work figuring out how to remedy that problem, too, in the further pursuit of a glorified China. Regardless, there’s no doubt that those couples without children will be the subject of government-approved and even mandated shaming, whether they deserve the ire or not.
While Japan is trying to inflate birth rates by taxing ‘handsome’ men to grant the less sexually active a greater shot at finding a partner, China is taking the opposite approach. By taxing those couples who aren’t getting busy enough – at least, as the government sees it – they are hoping that not sparing the financial rod will produce more children for parents to spoil.
It’s an almost neck-breaking change of pace, considering that Beijing only loosened their birth restrictions to a two-child policy a couple years ago. It wasn’t long ago that having more than one child was literally a criminal act. Soon, having one child will be a taxable offense.