The Chinese province will lift restrictions on unmarried people having children as part of a national drive to increase the country’s birth rate, as per a Guardian report. Sichuan’s health commission announced on Monday it would allow all people to register births with the provincial government from February 15. It will also remove limits on the number of birth registrations for any parent.
The southwestern province of Sichuan is China’s fifth most populous province. Until now, the commission only allowed people who were married and wanted to have up to two children to register with local authorities. These measures will be in place for up to five years.
While the National reproduction policies do not explicitly ban unmarried women from having children, however, proof of marriage is often required for parents to access free services including prenatal healthcare, a mother’s salary during maternity leave, and job protection.
Those individuals who have children outside of marriage often face heavy fines in order to get the child a hukou, which is China’s crucial household registration that gives the child access to education and social services.
In 2022, China’s population shrank for the first time in six decades. According to the Guardian, about 21 per cent of the region’s population is older than 60. The province has tried multiple incentives to increase the number of births. As per the report, in 2021, monthly allowances were given to parents who have a second or third child until the children are three.
China was known for the one-child policy it imposed from 1980-2015, which is a major reason for its demographic downturn. Yi Fuxian, an obstetrics and gynaecology researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an expert on China’s population changes said that it is now equivalent to cancelling the previous limit.
“Now it is equivalent to completely cancelling the [limit], so there is no need to make marriage a prerequisite. Respect for illegitimate reproductive rights, but not to encourage illegitimate births,” he said, according to the Guardian, adding that having children outside marriage was still uncommon across east Asia.
There were varied reactions online over the Sichuan amendment. Some people said it would mean extramarital affairs and would affect illegal surrogacy, as per the Guardian. While others supported the idea saying, marriage restrictions force people to tie the knot, this is a lot more trouble-free, and it respects reproductive freedom.