A recent study shows that raising kids in China is much more expensive than in developed countries, such as the U.S, France, Japan and Germany. But money is just half of the story.
Statistics: Raising kids in China is much more expensive than in the U.S.
According to the 2022 report published by Beijing-based YuWa Population Research Institute, it costs on average 485,000 yuan (about $76,000), equivalent to 6.9 times the country’s GDP per capita, to raise a child to the age of 18 in China, including everything from pregnancy-related costs to tuition fees.
In comparison, parenting costs relative to GDP per capita are only 2.08 times in Australia, 2.24 times in France, 2.91 times in Sweden, 3.64 times in Germany, 4.11 times in the United States and 4.26 times in Japan. China’s childcare cost, at 6.9 times GDP per capita, is almost the highest in the world. The report estimates that China needs to spend 5 percent of its GDP every year to reduce the costs of raising kids to the level of developed countries.
Parenting costs are nearly double in cities compared to the countryside. Shanghai ranks first among all cities with the average cost reaching 1.03 million yuan (over $150,000), followed by Beijing at 969,000 yuan (almost $145,000).
The report said that financial burden is the top reason explaining the unwillingness to bear babies among women of child bearing age. Despite Beijing’ scrapping of the decades-long one child policy in 2016, young people’s willingness to have kids continues to decline, with women of child bearing age planning to have only 1.76 children on average in 2017, 1.73 in 2019 and 1.64 in 2021. Recently, Beijing’s harsh zero-COVID policy may have worsened the situation when lockdowns hinder access to maternal health care services.
Meanwhile, data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs show a total of 8.14 million marriages registered in 2020, 1.13 million fewer than in 2019. This is also the seventh consecutive year of decline since 2013.
With the number of newborns hitting a new low since 1949, at 10.62 million in 2021, China’s total fertility rate is only 1.15, which is not among the world’s lowest but also much lower than Japan, the country well known for severely low birth rate and aging.
What’s the cost to raise a kid in China?
Reuters once provided a global picture of parenting costs in big Chinese cities, ranging from maternal costs to housing and education. According to the news agency, because public services often have tight resources and limited access, many households must turn to private ones at high prices.
For example, private clinics may charge more than 100,000 yuan ($15,700) for giving birth, while China’s GDP per capita in 2020 was about $10,500. Then, hiring an in-house nursemaid, or yuesao, to take care of the mother and baby in the first month costs roughly 15,000 yuan (almost $2,300).
Parents would buy imported milk formula from Australia and New Zealand for their baby’s security.
According to Reuters, parents would look for a place to live near the best educational centers they can afford. Beijing’s Haidian district is one of the most preferred, where housing costs can reach an average of over 90,000 yuan (near $13,400) per square meter, which could be similar to average prices in Manhattan.
China’s Global Times also noted that in megacities, a major part of kid-raising cost lies in housing prices, which significantly explains the low fertility rate there. The total fertility rate in China in 2020 was 1.3, but the figures were just 0.74 and 0.87 in Shanghai and Beijing, the lowest among the world’s big cities.
According to Reuters, those without a hukou, or residency permit, are not eligible for public schools and have to pay 40,000 to 250,000 yuan ($6,000 to $37,000) per year for private schooling.
With one-child families becoming a social norm, anxious parents sign their only kid up for private tutoring and extracurriculars such as piano, tennis, or chess classes.
Nikkei Asia reported the story of Peter Pan, a Ph.D. candidate in computer science currently based in Germany. Growing up in Zhejiang province, Pan had a rigorous schedule in elementary school, with six after-school classes, since extracurricular achievements could add points to middle school entrance exams. Pan never had a free weekend, even during winter and summer breaks.
According to Reuters, a 2019 Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences report reveals that an average family living in Shanghai’s upscale Jingan District spends approximately 840,000 yuan ($125,000) per child from birth to junior high school, which usually ends at age 15, with 510,000 yuan ($75,000) on education alone. Whereas low-income families in Shanghai’s Jingan and Minhang districts with annual income under 50,000 yuan ($7,500) spend more than 70% of their earnings on the child.
Chen Huijuan is a high school teacher living in Suzhou, eastern Jiangsu province. According to CNN, she paid $737 (5,000 yuan) a month—all of her monthly salaries—to send her 2-year-old son to a bilingual daycare center. All of the family’s other expenses, including foreign baby formula and educational toys for Xiyan, her only child, rely on her husband’s income. The young mother lost trust in Chinese food and fed her son imported beef, cod, and salmon. Before 2 years old, Xiyan had suffered intestinal and stomach problems and had to go to the hospital every month. Chen had to present the medical professional with a bribe to ensure her child got the best care.
The other half of the story
Raising kids is costly, but people would still be willing to do so if they are assured that the “fruit” of their investments is worthy, with some certainty. However, for present and future parents, the high level of precarity and unexpected costs in today’s society has been damaging their wish for a home full of children’s smiles.
During the lockdown in April and May, the “We are the last generation” hashtag went viral on Chinese social media. It comes from a video showing officers of a residential apartment committee and the police in full protective clothing, demanding that the neighbors of the confirmed positive-COVID person be quarantined. The young man who answered the door said that the nucleic acid test results of the whole family were negative, and the police had no right to take them away.
The police then pointed at him and threatened: “If you refuse to go, you will be punished by the police. This punishment will affect three generations of your family.” The man replied: “Then, this will be the last generation of my family, thank you.”
This video is widely sympathized with by young Chinese people. According to Reuters, Claire Jiang, 30, who works in the media industry, said she no longer wanted to have babies after witnessing the Shanghai lockdown.
“I definitely don’t want my children to have to carry the uncertainty of living in a country where the government can just come to your door and do whatever they want,” Jiang said.
During the lockdowns, people likely lost their income and had limited access to health care or food. The authorities even forcefully broke into homes and forced people into isolation huts, including the elderly and unattended children. At the pandemic’s peak, Chinese authorities even made the absurd decision that if “one person is positive, the whole building is isolated.”
This reminds us of the slogans promoted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the period of the one-child policy: “If one person violates the law, the whole village will be sterilized,” or “Rather another tomb than another baby,” etc. As stated in the book How the specter of Communism is ruling our world, “The National Health and Family Planning Commission used heavy fines, plunder, demolition of residences, assault, detention, and other such punishments to deal with violations of the one-child policy. In some places, family-planning officials drowned babies by throwing them into paddy fields. Even expecting mothers just days away from giving birth were forced to have abortions.”
“In 2013, the regime’s health ministry published figures revealing that at least 336 million abortions had been performed in China since 1971. The one-child policy began in 1979, meaning that for the more than thirty years of its existence, several million unborn children were murdered by the CCP every year.”
Today, facing a rapidly shrinking population that threatens economic growth and military power, the CCP turns 180 degrees and applies various measures to boost the fertility rate, but their inherent nature remains the same. Following Marxist materialism, it believes that childbirth is a form of productive action no different from steelmaking or agriculture and thus can be planned as well. Mao said: “Mankind must control itself and implement planned growth. It may sometimes increase a bit and come to a halt at times.”
But, like the title of a CNN report, today, “Chinese couples can’t afford a second child, no matter what Beijing wants.” Perhaps, if the Chinese market were not flooded with fake milk and toxic food; if housing prices were not blown up to such a skyhigh level; if access to quality health care and education services were available and stable; and so on, Chinese couples would be somehow eager to have more kids. Yet, the immoral mindset of looking down on human lives and pursuing material gains at all costs has become rampant in China after decades of CCP’s political movements and the destruction of traditional values.
In 2011, Wang Yue, a two-year-old Chinese girl, was struck by a white van, which drove off, leaving her to bleed on a narrow street of Foshan in the far southern province of Guangdong. The surveillance video showed more than a dozen people walking or driving past the girl; some stared before moving on. Subsequently, another large truck ran over Wang’s legs with front and back wheels. She was eventually pulled to the side of the street by a female rubbish scavenger before her mother, a migrant worker, rushed into the frame.
It is apparent in the video that Wang is crying, holding her head, moving her arms and legs, and bleeding. She was sent to a hospital for treatment but succumbed to her injuries and died after more than one week.
As Reuters reported, both drivers who ran over the girl were arrested, but Internet users have flooded microblogs criticizing the indifference of those who left her for dead.
The worst is yet to come
The story of Wang Yue is pitiful, but it might not be the worst that can happen to a child growing up in mainland China.
Chinese dissident Yao Cheng, a volunteer at New York-based Women’s Rights in China (WRIC), revealed that, according to statistics compiled by Chinese non-profits, an estimated 70,000 children are abducted annually, not considering those who were abandoned. The missing children were purchased as child brides (who would be married to a family member when the child reaches an appropriate age), prostitutes, or even organ donors.
Yao recalled witnessing in Santow, Guangdong, beds for boys and girls who had been sent to Southeast Asia for organ harvesting. Yao said that despite all the evidence he had collected, the police refused to investigate or take any action to crack down on the crimes.
Yao said the Chinese police are good at catching state dissidents, but not the traffickers, because many police are involved in the operations, which form a super lucrative industrial chain. He also believes that high-level officials in the CCP backed many schemes because some of them have themselves required an organ transplant. “Why can many of those senior Party cadres, supposedly frail after being through the wars and all the hardships in early life, live into their 90s and 100s?” Yao said. “Look at Jiang Zemin, he’s nearly 100 years old. There’s also a high demand for organs in the Chinese market,” he asserted.
Yao’s accusations are not baseless. In 2016, the United States House of Representatives passed H.Res.343, an item of legislation that expresses concern on “persistent and credible reports of systematic, state-sanctioned organ harvesting from nonconsenting prisoners of conscience in the People’s Republic of China,” with Falun Gong practitioners representing a major part.
“Chills down my spine, this is a society where we can’t see the light”— this comment by a Chinese netizen about recent riots in Zhengzhou is not only true for desperate depositors whose lifetime savings are endangered and who are beaten by the police, but might also hold for millions of Chinese parents, future parents and children under the rule of the dictatorial Communist Party.
Still, hope is always the last thing to be lost. While grassroots society is raising its voice and demanding for their rights, the world needs to wake up to these dangers and push World leaders to pass comprehensive laws and hold those people or countries accountable for their atrocities against children.