In the News

by Jane Golley

A yuesao looking after her ward
Photo: Nicolepeach, Flickr

The Chinese media published a wide range of news stories relating to the Two-Child Policy in 2016. Collectively, they implied that a veritable ‘baby boom’ is already well underway. It will take time for official statistics to confirm or deny whether this is the case (and more time still to determine whether those official statistics are accurate or not). Some examples include:

  • In Linyi city in Shandong province, early education centres are developing rapidly, with annual tuition fees predicted to reach up to RMB 10,000 (AU$2,000) because of the new policy, which is expected to boost demand for children placements. The growing demand for education for children aged six and under in China’s highly competitive education system is related to parents’ desire for their young children to ‘expand their social networks’ 社交圈子大点 and to ensure that they are not ‘losing at the starting line’ 输在起跑线. More broadly, there have been numerous calls for expanded access to childcare and early education so that having a second child does not derail the parents’ career prospects.
  • Numerous articles predicted that over fifteen million babies will be delivered in China in the next five years, stimulating consumption and promoting China’s economic development. (My own analysis shows the first of these claims to be true, but not the second.)
  • In Shenzhen, Guangdong province, one of China’s wealthiest cities, there has been a surge in demand for ‘postnatal attendants’ (yuesao) following the policy change. Yuesao salaries are predicted to increase rapidly to RMB 20,000–30,000 per month (AU$4,000–6,000). These yuesao provide services that the vast majority of Chinese mothers (and indeed most parents around the world) can only dream about: including food preparation and nutrition advice for the new mother alongside postnatal care of the baby.
  • By contrast, a story from Hainan stressed how the island lacks enough gynaecologists and nursing staff to cope with the expected baby boom in 2016.
  • In Jiangsu province, readers were informed of the dangers of ‘advanced maternal age’ based on two women aged thirty-four and thirty-six — not particularly ‘advanced’ in the context of developed countries these days — experiencing antenatal haemorrhaging; fortunately both mums and babies survived. From Shanghai came a related story about advanced maternal age and the increase in the number of caesareans and use of IVF.
  • One article suggested that the end of the One-Child Policy would solve the problems of the Spanish dairy industry, given the Chinese appetite for foreign infant formula and milk powder. Another predicted benefits for the Australian and New Zealand dairy industries as well. (My modelling work suggests that none of these countries would be wise to rely on a Chinese baby boom alone.)