According to Sound of Hope, China’s youth population is facing a crisis that encompasses many areas of life—an existential crisis for some. 

Due to the economic downturn, unemployment has soared, and the survival pressure on young people has increased sharply. Some young parents feel they have neither money nor energy, and the financial pressure to raise children is rising.

Childcare crisis

A few days ago, 17 bureaus of the Communist Party of China, the government, and the military, jointly introduced measures to encourage fertility. 

According to the British media BBC on August 24, the newly released document proposed some specific measures, including increasing childcare services, improving the maternity leave mechanism, solving housing difficulties for young people, and improving the promotion of women’s employment.

Some population experts said that the new policy of the Chinese authorities is only to solve the problem of what is “unaffordable,” but the effect could not be successful.

Hao Fuqing, deputy director of the China National Development and Reform Commission, said domestic surveys show that unattended infants and young children are the primary factors hindering childbirth. More than one-third of households in cities have childcare needs, and the offer is insufficient.

Young working parents struggle with the burden of not knowing where to keep their children due to a lack of kindergarten facilities which worsened after the Zero-COVID policy. Although some private options are available, parents criticize them as they have become expensive and “unaffordable.” 

High living costs

Weibo user “Gufengxisha” wrote that housing prices are too high due to poverty, which makes it impossible to purchase a large house. People are forced to have two jobs due to living costs. Also, parents have to take care of their kids. 

Xiao Le (pseudonym), 32, is the mother of a two-year-old boy. She got pregnant unexpectedly in July this year but decided to give birth to her second child without hesitation.

She explained to the BBC the reason for not giving birth: “No money, no time, no energy. In fact, I don’t want to give birth at all. In the post-90s, most of us were only children, and we lived more selfishly. We were only children ourselves. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being an only child.”

She made an economic calculation. If the child is young, the basic expenses, such as food and clothing, cost about $440 (3,000 yuan) per month, and after school, it may cost about $730 (5,000 yuan) per month. The financial pressure is great.

She said, “If there is another child, I don’t know how I should live.”

Youth unemployment on the rise

Too many unemployed, unemployment insurance gap hits record high. Unabated unemployment is one of the biggest crises for today’s young people. In the case of facing their own difficulties, childbirth is no longer a consideration.

Unemployment insurance payments hit a high record in June. While the Chinese authorities made “employment stabilization” a national priority, the number of unemployed also hit a record high.

According to Reuters, the amount paid out by China’s unemployment insurance fund increased by approximately 257% to about $5.4 billion (about 37 billion yuan) in June. IT thus exceeded 3.6 times the amount for the same period in 2012 and reached the highest level since the data was released in January 2013, according to statistics from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

The unemployment insurance fund posted a deficit (gap) of about $3.3 billion (22.74 billion yuan) in June, extending from the deficit (gap) of 4.91 billion yuan in May and in stark contrast to the monthly surplus from January to April. 

This was due to the high increase in unemployment spending. Employers, workers, and government subsidies make up China’s unemployment insurance fund, which provides for the essential requirements of the unemployed.

A complex current situation, a helpless outlook

Wu Jialong, a general economist in Taiwan, pointed out that the reasons for the soaring unemployment rate in China are, firstly, the Chinese regime’s “dynamic clearing” policy. 

Other reasons are the bursting of the real estate bubble and the repeated outbreak of the CCP virus. The trade war between the U.S. and the combination of these factors has pushed China’s manufacturing, real estate, and service industries into recession, and of course, unemployment has soared.

Demographers say the measures taken so far are not enough. They cite high education costs, low wages, and notoriously long working hours as issues that still need to be addressed, along with COVID policies and economic growth concerns.

A key root cause of low birth rates, according to Peter McDonald, professor of demography at the University of Melbourne, is gender inequality, where China is ranked 102nd out of 146 countries by the World Economic Forum.

Jiahui Wu, a 25-year-old financial analyst, said society’s standards for a good mother are strict.

“It seems much easier to be a good father,” she said. “I prefer to have a good career.”

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