'Don't talk to me about having a baby': Chinese avoid the bedroom despite looming population crisis

·2 min read
People push baby carriages outside the Ritan Park in Beijing, China - WU HONG /EPA
People push baby carriages outside the Ritan Park in Beijing, China - WU HONG /EPA

Couples in China weren’t much in the mood to get busy in the bedroom during the country's various lockdowns last year, dashing the government’s hopes of a post-pandemic baby boom to stave off a looming population crisis.

Ten million births were registered in 2020, 15 per cent lower than the previous year, and hitting a new record low since the 1960s, when China was in the middle of a famine.

In recent years, Chinese couples have become less willing to have children due to the rising cost of housing, health care and education. Even Beijing’s 2016 decision to scrap a decades-long one-child policy had little impact.

“House prices [are] the best contraceptive pill,” one person posted online.

Turns out a pandemic – and all its related restrictions and risks – in 2020 didn’t exactly turn up the heat in the bedroom, either.

“There are many regulations on pandemic prevention and housing compounds always ask people to quarantine,” scoffed one person online. “That’s upsetting enough, don’t talk to me about having a baby.”

“It would be such a headache if one gets pregnant during the pandemic and has to go to the hospital,” said another.

Others talked about how 2020 was all about figuring out how to stay alive – not the best backdrop for bringing new life into the world.

“Even female animals know not to give birth when the environment is not good, not to mention human beings,” a user posted on social media.

Quarantines in China, like elsewhere, have also created friction between couples.

“Locking men and women up at home could by no means increase birth rate, but the divorce rate would definitely spike,” said one online post.

But fewer babies and a fast-aging population means soon China could feel the economic impact of a shrinking working-age population.

Experts estimate that by 2050, about 40 per cent of China’s population will be above retirement age.

As such, China has encouraged people to produce more offspring, a message that has largely fallen flat.

“The authorities and experts publicise giving birth to more children all the time,” wrote one person. “If they are in such a hurry they should study how to let men give birth to children.”

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