Want a second child? Shanghai parents: “No thanks.”

In aging China, a change of course

…when Shanghai government officials … began encouraging young couples to have more than one child, their reaction was instant and firm: No way.
Wang … said she wants an only child because she was one herself: “We were at the center of our families and used to everyone taking care of us. We are not used to taking care of and don’t really want to take care of others.”

Chen Zijian … put it more bluntly. For the dual-career, middle-class parents … it’s about being successful enough to be selfish. Today’s 20- and 30-somethings grew up seeing their parents struggle … and don’t want that kind of life for themselves, he said.


10 thoughts on “Want a second child? Shanghai parents: “No thanks.””

  1. I saw a CCTV news some days ago, saying the most important reason why they don’t want a second child is that the cost of raising a child is too high and most people can’t afford a second child. In China most people in the city want to give their children as best as possible.

  2. I’ve heard that, too; economics is often one of the first reasons given. Interesting that it’s the relatively rich 白领 who are quickest to say they can’t afford it.

  3. My own experience is that children are very cheap to raise here in China.

    For one thing, baby formula milk is a big unnecessary expense. Mama milk is cheap, plentiful and the perfect food. It is even proven to increase intelligence!

    For another, kindergartens are a huge unnecessary expense. Children learn more with a parent.

    I think (a) the advertisements have worked, and have tricked parents into buying in the hopes of improving their child, and (b) many parents enjoy their (paid) work more than child-raising, and are secretly happy to be told that they have to work hard to earn more to spend more on their child.

  4. I am quite skeptical of this article. The overwhelming majority of my Chinese friends who have a child say they are envious of me having two kids, and say they would love to do the same.

    To me, this sounds like a government written piece to reinforce the one child policy.

  5. I guess as a New Zealander living in China, Australia is the middle ground. So the interweb really is omniscient :-)

    Joel, your experiences you write of are similar to mine. A couple of further thoughts.

    We have almost never had to buy clothes for our daughter, Mulan. We have about 3 or 4 family/friends who each regularly pass their child’s too-small clothes on to us. (This is one of the benefits of the one-child-policy — children’s clothes still have a lot of wear left in them!) We are not too proud to accept hand-me-downs!

    My wife tells me that only one out of 12 of her young (early-20s) colleagues is an only child. This one is a Guangzhou native. The other 11 are originally from smaller cities or villages.

  6. Much of what we’ve seen heard goes along with some of what you guys are saying. It’s not an accident that parents who would want more than one child feel like they could never afford them anyway. And much of the child rearing expense in China is unnecessary. Parents allow themselves to be taken advantage of. And though my conspiracy-theories don’t stretch quite as far as Capn’s, it’s no secret that the gov explicitly uses the specter of poverty in it’s One-Child propaganda.

    My wife routinely has the same child-raising conversations whenever she takes Lilia out somewhere (foreign baby = ultimate conversation piece). Recently a taxi driver was saying how they were envious of us (planning for more) but just couldn’t imagine having more than one because raising one child in Tianjin saps all their family’s resources. Her example was buying 200 kuai shoes for her own baby. My wife replied that our baby’s shoes were 20 kuai and why does a baby need 200 kuai shoes anyway? And that’s when the taxi driver talked about giving their kid the best, and when my wife pressed her she admitted that it had to do with ‘face’ and peer pressure from/competition with other parents.

    It sounds to me like the desperation to give the kid the ‘best’ of everything, which is partially fueled by ‘face’ concerns and worry over training up their little competitor for the great Chinese education/employment race, is reflected in the market. Stuff is priced to gouge families who will pay as much as they can afford (and more) for their one and only child. Baby formula in Tianjin is more than in Vancouver! We’re getting name-brand Dutch formula (that we can trust) imported over the internet for the same price we’d pay in the store for made-in-China brands.

    We also repeatedly hear from parents (most of my students are adults) about how a baby/child is TOO much work and they can’t imagine doing it again. I don’t get this. Of COURSE they’re a lot of work! Life as you knew it is over! What were you expecting?

    It’s interesting to compare with what we saw in Taibei. Rich families with many kids were not uncommon — our students usually had siblings — but a double-career couple with no kids and a pampered puppy wasn’t an uncommon sight. People joked about the over-pampered dogs as child-replacements. It’s no secret that many rich, urban Chinese in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Taibei who have the choice are choosing one or none. Hong Kong downsized its maternity services because their birthrate was so low, and now apparently the majority of women giving birth in HK are actually from the Mainland. At the same time, some of my exceptionally rich/well-connected students in TJ have more than one kid: “we just have to pay the fine, that’s all.”

    I suspect it all depends on what ‘kind’ of Chinese you ask. When it comes to segments of society living vastly different experiences, there are many chinas, 对吧?

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