China aims for better-skilled population, to improve childcare

FILE PHOTO: A parents pushes a stroller with a baby in a park in Shanghai

By Farah Master

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China needs to focus on education, science and technology to develop a better-skilled population, the state-backed People's Daily said on Tuesday, adding that the country will strive for a "moderate fertility" level to support economic growth.

President Xi Jinping recently attended a meeting concerned with population development, it added with the newspaper describing population development as a major event linked to China's "great rejuvenation".

Concerned about China's first population drop in six decades last year and its rapid ageing, the government has urgently embarked on measures to lift the country's birth rate including financial incentives and boosting childcare facilities.

China will double the number of childcare centres by 2025, state-backed broadcaster CCTV said on Tuesday, with the headline "It is no longer difficult to take care of a baby".

The number of caregivers per 1,000 people will increase to 4.5 by 2025 from 2.5 in 2022, it added.

Many Chinese women are reluctant to have more than one or even any children due to the high costs of child-rearing and as the lack of childcare means becoming a parent often entails giving up a career. Gender discrimination and traditional thinking that places the burden of caring for children mostly on women are still widespread throughout the country.Authorities have in recent months increased rhetoric about sharing child-rearing duties but paternity leave is still limited in most provinces.

Opening up fertility services to unmarried women may help to boost the country's fertility rate, the government's political advisers proposed in March.

(Reporting by Farah Master and the Beijing newsroom; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)