As the rapidly-aging country strives to reverse a births slump, a Chinese province with one of the fastest-shrinking populations is offering special loans to encourage couples to marry and have children.
According to an official blueprint on strategies to stimulate population growth, Jilin province in northeast China would support banks providing up to 200,000 yuan ($31,400) in “marriage and birth consumer loans” to married couples.
There were no specifics on how the government would help, but the proposal includes loans with reduced interest rates based on the number of children a couple has.
The birth rate in China has decreased dramatically in recent years, as less and fewer people have children.
Despite the government officially removing any limit on the number of children a couple can have and attempting to make raising a family less expensive, the fall has continued, with some demographers believing that the population may have already begun to shrink.
Other provisions of the Jilin policy include permitting couples from other provinces to apply for a hukou (residence permit) and use public services in Jilin if they have children and register them there.
According to the document, couples with two or three children will also be eligible for tax breaks if they start a small business.
Jilin is located in China’s “rust belt,” an area noted for heavy industries and farming.
Over the last decade, the region has had the biggest population decreases and weak economic growth, with Jilin province’s economy growing 7.8% in the first three quarters of this year compared to the same time in 2020, less than the national average of 9.8%.
In just ten years, the population of Heilongjiang plummeted by 17%, while coastal provinces, Xinjiang, and Tibet expanded.
The consumer loan sparked debate on Weibo, a Chinese social media network.
According to one commenter, “Families who need a loan to raise kids wouldn’t want them in the first place, and it’s not a good thing to add to their financial burden.”
“After a mortgage and a car loan, we now have to pay for a child’s birth. Another guy complained, “We’ve spent our entire lives working for the bank.”
Jilin, like many other provinces, is increasing the length of maternity and paternity leave. Women will receive 180 days of total leave, up from 158 days previously, and men will have 25 days, up from 15 days previously.
Couples will also receive 20 days of parental leave each year before their children turn three, according to the paper, and the province will push kindergartens to open day care centers for children aged two to three.
A Bank of China branch in the south-eastern province of Jiangxi garnered considerable criticism earlier this year for advertising a loan product aimed at newlywed couples.
According to local media, the bank then stated that it was simply evaluating the product and that it had chosen not to launch it due to a lack of demand.