Why China is struggling to boost its birth rate

5. What’s the solution?

Time and financial concerns mean that many couples feel they can only afford to have one child — if any. Last year, the central government moved to relieve that burden, including trying to make education cheaper by wiping out the for-profit, after-school tutoring industry. It issued a guideline to reduce abortions while providing more support to women to raise children, and even began work on overhauling a decades-old law to better protect the rights of working women. Many “view multiple childbirths and successful career as fundamentally incompatible,” according to a study by Yun Zhou at Brown University. A commission created by the U.S. Congress found working women face “severe discrimination” from employers, especially surrounding pregnancy and maternity benefits. While allowing more than two children could increase the fertility rate, officials might need to build up medical services and schools and work out tax breaks for families first. At least 20 provinces had their own measures to boost fertility last year, according to the official Xinhua News Agency, from extending maternity and paternal leave to offering subsidies and providing baby loans.