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Shanghai’s Population Struggle: Health Insurance to Aid Infertility Treatments

Daniel Kim Views  

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), Shanghai, the second-most populous city in the world’s most populous country, will include infertility treatment services in its health insurance system starting this month. As a result, infertile couples residing in Shanghai who wish to have children can now receive up to 70% coverage for expenses associated with assisted reproductive technology (ART).

With a population of 25 million, Shanghai recorded a total fertility rate of 0.6 last year. This indicates that, on average, a woman of childbearing age gives birth to 0.6 children in her lifetime. This figure is significantly lower than the replacement fertility rate of 2.1, which is necessary for population stability. It is even lower than Korea, which has the world’s lowest rate of 0.72.

However, experts predict that despite efforts to increase Shanghai’s birth rate, the number of newborns will persistently decline due to the rapid decrease in the population of women of childbearing age. Hu Zhan, a professor of demography at Fudan University in Huzhou, said, “This is the result of our long-standing family planning policy. Even if the birth rate increases, the number of babies decreases as the population of women of childbearing age decreases due to the past one-child policy.” Shanghai marked the onset of an aging society on the Chinese mainland in 2017 when the population aged 65 and over exceeded 14%.

According to the population census results released by the National Bureau of Statistics of China in 2020, the total fertility rate in China is 1.3. These census results are typically announced once every ten years. Experts estimate that China’s total fertility rate last year was approximately 1. As the demographic crisis intensifies, China replaced its one-child policy, which had been in effect since 1980, with a universal two-child policy in 2016 and allowed three children in 2021.

Despite these efforts, China experienced its first population decline in 60 years in 2022, with deaths exceeding the number of births. This trend continued last year, losing its status as the most populous country to India. Last year, the number of kindergarten teachers in China dropped by over 170,000 for the first time since 2010. Zhang Sori, founder of SERI, a Chinese education service company, said, “The decline in the number of children has brought a roller coaster-like experience to the kindergarten industry. The number of children attending kindergarten is expected to halve from 2020 levels between 2026 and 2030.”

Experts emphasized the necessity of a collective societal effort, emphasizing that the birth policy alone will not increase the absolute number of births. Professor Hu Zhan said, “It seems that the policy change has not yielded the desired results, as more people are now delaying marriage and hesitating to have children due to increased costs and diverse lifestyles. We must cultivate a more friendly social environment for families with children, like when motherhood was celebrated, and love for children was emphasized.”

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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