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Sunday April 21, 2024

China’s ‘dragon’ baby boom may boost population in 2024

Marriage rates in China are closely tied to birth rates as unmarried mothers are often denied child-raising benefits

By REUTERS
February 24, 2024
A newborn baby, whose Chinese zodiac sign is dragon, is seen with the mother and sister at a hospital in Wuxi, east Chinas Jiangsu Province, February 10, 2024. — Xinhua/Zhu Jipeng
A newborn baby, whose Chinese zodiac sign is dragon, is seen with the mother and sister at a hospital in Wuxi, east China's Jiangsu Province, February 10, 2024. — Xinhua/Zhu Jipeng

HONG KONG: More babies are being born in hospitals across China in the Year of the Dragon, financial news outlet Yicai reported, an increase which could soften the decline in population in 2024 and bring cheer to policymakers.

The Dragon Chinese zodiac sign is believed to be particularly auspicious, and data from hospitals over the Lunar New Year which began on Feb 10 showed that the number of newborns had increased “significantly”, Yicai said.

The newspaper cited a hospital in Wuxi, in eastern China, reporting a 20 percent increase in the number of newborns compared to a year ago, while a hospital in the northwestern Shaanxi province reported a 72 percent increase in new births compared to 2023.

Marriage rates in China are closely tied to birth rates as unmarried mothers are often denied child-raising benefits, and last year, the number of marriage registrations rose for the first time in several years, due to a backlog from the pandemic.

Chinese policymakers are worried about the decline in births in a rapidly ageing population, with President Xi Jinping saying last year it was necessary to “actively cultivate a new culture of marriage and childbearing” for national development.

Many young people, however, are opting to stay single or put off getting married due to poor job prospects, record youth unemployment and chronically low consumer confidence as growth in the world’s second largest economy slows.