校对:刘   璠

策划:唐   萧

China is in a muddle over population policy


A two-child rule still applies, but officials know more babies are needed, not fewer

二胎办法仍在实行,但政府 想要的是提高新生儿出生率,而非减少

本文选自 The Economist | 取经号原创翻译

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WHEN Li Dongxia was a baby, her parents sent her to be raised by her grandparents and other family members half an hour from their home in the northern Chinese province of Shandong. That was not a choice but a necessity: they already had a daughter, and risked incurring a fine or losing their jobs for breaking a law that prevented many couples from having more than one child. Hidden away from the authorities, and at first kept in the dark herself, Ms Li says she was just starting primary school when she found out that the kindly aunt and uncle who often visited were in fact her biological parents. She was a young teenager before she was able to move back to her parents’ home.

李冬霞(音)出生后 就被父母送到祖父母和亲戚那里抚养。那里离 开他们在山东的家有半小时车程。不是她 的父母想把她送走,这样做纯属迫不得已。由于已 经有了一个女儿,再生一个便违反了“只能生一个”的国策,要么交 钱要么丢掉工作。李冬霞起初过着“黑孩”生活,游离在政府监管之外。她说,在开始上小学的时候,她才发 现常来看望她的那两个亲切的叔叔和阿姨,实际上 却是她的亲生父母,而回到 父母身边的时候,她已经十几岁了。


Ms Li is now 26 and runs her own private tutoring business. The era that produced her unconventional childhood feels like a long time ago. The policy responsible for it is gone, swapped in late 2015 for a looser regulation that permits all families to have two kids. These days the worry among policymakers is not that babies are too numerous, but that Chinese born in the 1980s and 1990s are procreating too little. Last month state media applauded parents in Shandong for producing more children than any other province in 2017. It called their fecundity “daring”.

如今,26岁的李 女士经营着自己的补习班业务。那个让 她有着不寻常的童年经历的时代,仿佛已经过去了很久。当年的“国策”已经被新政策取代。2015年下半年,政府放宽了政策,允许一 对夫妻可以生育两个孩子。目前,当局担 心的不是新生儿数量太多,而是80后90后生得太少。2017年,山东省 婴儿出生人数跃居全国第一。上个月,官媒盛 赞山东的父母进行了表扬,称其为“最敢生”的省份。


At the root of this reversal is growing anxiety about China’s stark demographic transition. Although the birth rate has recovered slightly from a trough in 2010, women still have less than two children on average, meaning that the population will soon begin to decline. The government predicts it will peak at a little over 1.4bn in 2030, but many demographers think it will start shrinking sooner. The working-age population, defined as those between 16 and 59 years old, has been falling since 2012, and is projected to contract by 23% by 2050. An ageing population will strain the social-security system and constrict the labour market. James Liang of Peking University argues that having an older workforce could also end up making Chinese firms less innovative than those in places such as America which have a more favourable demographic outlook.

政策转变根源,是当局 对于国内人口形势发生的严峻变化日渐担忧。虽然出生率已从2010年的低谷中略有回升,但女性 平均生育数量仍然低于两个孩子,意味着 人口数量将很快开始下降。政府预计,到2030年,中国人口将达到逾14亿的顶峰,但许多 人口学家认为人口将很快开始下降。劳动人口(即16岁至59岁的人口)自2012年以来持续下降,预计到2050年将减少23%。人口老 龄化将给社会保障体系带来沉重负担,并制约劳动力市场。北京大学的詹姆斯·梁认为,趋向老 龄化的劳动力可能最终导致中国企业的创新能力低于诸如美国等人口前景更为有利的国家地区。

reversal / rɪˈvɜːsl; rɪˋvəsl/ n (instance of) making sth the opposite of what it was; turning around 反转;倒向;颠倒


Unwinding the one-child policy was supposed to help. But figures released in January confirm that after briefly boosting birth rates, its effect is petering out (see chart). Chinese mothers bore 17.2m babies last year, more than before the rules were relaxed but 3.5% down on 2016. Wang Feng of the University of California, Irvine, says the number of births was 3m-5m lower than the projections from the family-planning agency when the authorities were debating whether to change the policy, and below even sceptical analysts’ estimates.

取消一 孩政策应该能够带来一些改善。但1月份公布的数据显示,在短暂提升出生率后,政策的 激励效应正在逐渐消失(见图表)。去年,新生儿数量为1720万人,大于政 策放宽前的数量,但较2016年下降了3.5%。加州大 学欧文分校的王峰(音)表示,专家在 讨论是否修改政策的时候给出的实际出生人数,要比计 生机构预计的出生人数低300万到500万,而持怀 疑态度的分析者们则认为实际数据应该更低。


The reason is that as China grows wealthier—and after years of being told that one child is ideal—the population’s desire for larger families has waned. Would-be parents frequently tell pollsters that they balk at the cost of raising children. As well as fretting about rising house prices and limited day care, many young couples know that they may eventually have to find money to support all four of their parents in old age. Lots conclude that it is wiser to spend their time and income giving a single sprog the best possible start in life than to spread their resources across two.

导致这 一现象的原因是,随着中 国变得越来越富有,并且多 年来政府一直宣传“只生一个好”的理念,人们对 大家庭的渴望早已减退。准父母 们经常告诉调查者,抚养孩 子的高昂成本使他们望而生畏。许多年 轻夫妇除了对飞涨的房价感到忧虑,也为日 间无法照顾小孩感到烦恼,同时他们还发现,他们很 可能最终要为双方四个父母的老年生活买单。把时间 和金钱倾注在一个孩子身上,尽可能 地给他一个较高的人生起点,显然是 更为明智的做法。


Meanwhile, more education and opportunity are pushing up the average age of marriage (that is a drag on fertility everywhere, but particularly so in societies such as China’s where child-bearing outside wedlock is taboo). Women thinking about starting or expanding a family still have to weigh the risks of discrimination at work. Since the one-child policy was relaxed, many provinces have extended maternity and paternity leave, but are not always ready to enforce the rules when employers break them.

同时,教育的 普及和宽广的机遇共同推动了平均结婚年龄的上升(这对各 国的生育率都造成了影响,尤其像 中国这样将未婚生育视为禁忌的国家)。准备生 育的女性仍需权衡遭受职场歧视的风险。由于一孩政策放宽,许多省 份延长了产假和陪产假,但对于 违反政策的行为却未能始终做到有效执法。


The Communist Party appears to recognise that it needs to do more to lower these barriers. A population-planning document released last year acknowledged that the low birth rate was problematic and referred to a vague package of pronatalist measures that it would consider in response. The following month China Daily quoted a senior official who said that the government might introduce “birth rewards and subsidies” to overcome the reluctance of many couples to multiply.

上面似 乎已经认识到需要做出更多的努力来消除这些障碍。去年发 布的一份人口计划文件承认,低出生 率将会引来大麻烦,并指出 将考虑推出一系列奖励生育的措施来积极应对,但并未提及具体内容。接下来的一个月中,《中国日报》援引一 位高层官员的话称,政府可能会推出“生育奖励和补贴”,以缓解 许多夫妻不愿生的情绪。


Yet the lacklustre performance of pronatalist policies elsewhere in the world suggests that it would take vast investments to raise fertility, and that making child care cheaper should be a priority. At present it is difficult to imagine the party doing enough to make a difference—not least because it has yet to abandon its official position that some population-control measures remain essential. Leaders may be hesitating to ditch the two-child rule completely while they work out what to do with the army of bureaucrats charged with keeping birth rates low. They are probably also nervous that making too swift a U-turn will be seen as an admission that the party’s draconian policies, which led to forced abortions and sterilisations, were misguided.

然而,就世界 范围内其他国家人口激励政策乏善可陈的表现来看,想要提高生育率,必须投入大量资金。降低儿 童看护费用应当是重中之重。目前很 难想象他们能够做出什么改变——特别是 在目前官方认为某些人口控制措施仍然有其必要性的情况下。当政府 最终明白需要对导致生育率低下的大批官员进行问责的时候,他们可能 还是会在是否完全取消二胎政策这个问题上有所犹豫。他们可能又会担心,过快转 变政策等同于承认先前的强制堕胎和绝育政策是错误的。


Without a clear strategy, efforts to push procreation will remain piecemeal and ineffectual. Eagerness to raise birth rates is probably one reason why party organs seem ever keener to talk up the joys of marriage. The other reasons are creeping social conservatism among party leaders—due in part to a desire to promote “traditional” Chinese culture over the insidious foreign kind—and the worry that a surfeit of unmarried men may pose a threat to social order. For some years the Communist Youth League has been inviting patriotic singletons to matchmaking events.

如果没 有清晰的战略定位,为推动 生育做出的努力仍然会是琐碎无效的。当前,官方比 以往任何时候都热衷于宣传婚姻的乐趣,背后的 一个原因可能就是迫切想要提高出生率。其他原 因则是领导层中社会保守主义蔓延——想要通过推广“传统”中国文 化来抵御日渐入侵的外来文化,以及担 心未婚男性过多可能不利于社会稳定。多年来,共青团 一直邀请爱国单身人士参加相亲活动。


One big concern is that officials may end up trying to nudge busy and ambitious women into accepting more domestic roles. Leta Hong Fincher, an author and academic, argues that state media have helped popularise the concept of “leftover women”—a pejorative term for unmarried females in their mid-20s and later—in an effort to panic educated, urban Chinese into settling down sooner than they otherwise would. She thinks such propaganda is growing more aggressive. If that is indeed the kind of solution that is gestating within the bureaucracy, the hoped-for baby boom will be stillborn.

一个巨 大的隐忧是政府最终可能试图通过施加潜移默化的影响,改变那 些忙于工作的有志女性的观念,迫使她 们接受贤妻良母的角色定位。作家兼 学者洪理达认为,官媒助长了“剩女”概念的流行——这是对25岁以上 未婚女性的歧视性称呼——试图让 城市中受过良好教育的人们更早地感到焦虑,因而提早进入婚姻。她认为 政府的宣传正在变得越来越激进。如果这 确实是政府酝酿中的解决方案,那么他们所希望的“婴儿潮”永远不会到来。