Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Much ado about raising a second child

By Zhu Jin (China Daily) Updated: 2014-02-28 07:23

Five provinces and municipalities have implemented the new family planning policy since the Third Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee passed it in November, and more provinces and regions will put it into practice later.

Some people fear that the new family planning policy would cause a baby boom while others argue against such a possibility because many young couples are not eager to have a second child given the high cost of raising one. Irrespective of which group is right, the cost of raising a child has been exaggerated by social and traditional media.

Most of the online postings use extreme examples. In one well-viewed online list, for instance, the cost of raising a child in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen - the costliest three - is more than 2 million yuan ($329,200), and the cost in other first-tier cities is about 1.5 million yuan. But the fact is, first-tier cities don't represent the whole of China.

According to last year's data from the National Health and Family Planning Commission, about 20 million couples are eligible to have a second child because either the husband or the wife (or both) is the only child of his/her parents. And Beijing, with about 450,000 such couples who account for less than 5 percent of the total, cannot represent all of them.

The cost of living has indeed increased rapidly in recent years, but the way the cost of raising a child has been calculated in most online postings is representative of relatively well-off couples. Generally speaking, the annual income of parents decides how much money they would spend on raising a child. So, we cannot calculate the cost of raising a child by assuming that all couples are willing or able to pay for babysitters, overseas travels and other expensive activities such as golf and horse riding.

Internationally, the money spent on a child from birth to the age of 16 is considered the cost of raising a child. In some countries, college tuition is also added to the cost. But quite a few online postings include wedding costs and even the down payment for buying a house in the cost of raising a child, which is wrong.

Many people argue that the cost of education is too high for a large number of Chinese families to afford. The National Bureau of Statistics has said that the cost of education has been increasing the fastest (about 20 percent a year on average) among all household expenditures in Chinese cities. Paying for a child's education is reportedly the highest among all the costs of raising a child in China, nearly half the total in some cities.

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