Thursday, December 8 2022

Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen on screens as delegates attend the second plenary session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

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SHANGHAI, March 9 (Reuters) – Proposals for union twinning committees and a push to encourage more graduate students to have babies have sparked a chilling reception on social media as officials mull ways ways to increase China’s plummeting birth rate.

In total, delegates to China’s annual parliament meeting submitted more than 20 suggestions on ways to produce more children in a country that has not abandoned a decades-long policy of limiting couples to one offspring until now. in 2016.

A Communist Party secretary of a pharmaceutical company in Hubei province’s plan for ‘marriage committees’ within unions to provide matchmaking services, has been widely criticized on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter .

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“Marriage is for happiness, not for achieving goals,” said one reviewer.

Another suggestion was also rejected that masters and doctoral students should be encouraged to marry and reproduce.

“So I’m studying a masters to give birth to a baby for you? Why not start a school (for this), where people can graduate once they give birth to enough people,” wrote a user in a post that got around 5,000 likes. .

The sharp decline in China’s birth rate to last year’s record low, fueled in part by the high cost of raising children in cities, has been met with growing concern by authorities.

Last year, China announced couples could have up to three children, in a major change, but the decision sparked doubts about whether it would make much of a difference and questions about the supports that would be deployed.

Other proposals submitted to the National People’s Congress, which began Saturday and ends Friday, have focused on ways to ease the pressures facing families and working women.

They included preferential tax policies, the abolition of kindergarten fees for a third child, and penalties for employers who discriminate against parents with multiple children.

Although proposals submitted by ordinary delegates to parliament for automatic approval are largely symbolic, they allow for discussion of matters of public interest and, in theory, will also be considered by policy-making committees.

Many Weibo users took the opportunity to criticize China’s historic tactics to control population growth.

“It’s crazy, when it was the days of family planning, there were forced sterilizations and abortions,” said one user whose comment received more than 2,000 likes. “Now they want three children. Are women just machines?”

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Reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai and Albee Zhang in Beijing; Additional reporting by Shanghai Newsroom Editing by Tony Munroe and John Stonestreet

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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