District offers coupon worth 15 sq m, but parents, experts doubt it will be effective
Potential homebuyers check out housing projects at a real estate agency in Huizhou, Guangdong province, in December. (ZHOU NAN / FOR CHINA DAILY)
Financial incentives to encourage births have been kicked up a notch recently, with one affluent region in Zhejiang province saying that families with three children may be eligible for a one-time housing coupon worth 300,000 yuan ($43,100).
Shangyu district in Shaoxing city said last month that families with three children who do not own a home or who currently live in a space of less than 30 square meters per head will be eligible for the coupon, which can be used to directly deduct from the purchase.
The average price of homes in Shangyu is around 20,000 yuan per sq m, which means that families eligible for a coupon will be compensated for around 15 sq m of their new home, according to TheHour.cn, a local media organization.
Shangyu announced the policy as part of a package of measures to reduce the cost of raising children and encourage a fertility-friendly society. The local government said that it will dedicate 100 million yuan annually to the plan.
Other policy highlights include discounts and prioritizing the allocation of affordable housing for families with two to three children. Families will also be able to obtain subsidies for rented housing.
Since China announced the decision to allow couples to have up to three children and released a slew of policies to encourage births in May 2021, local governments have rolled out incentives centering on monthly allowances, extending paternity and maternity leaves, and building more nursery care facilities.
Similar policies to reduce the cost of buying a new house for families with children have also been implemented in cities in the provinces of Heilongjiang, Shandong and Jiangsu.
Earlier in February, Weihai, a coastal city in Shandong, announced that families with two or more children will be given a maximum of 50,000 yuan when they purchase a new home.
While hailing the launch of a variety of financial incentives, experts and parents have doubts the measures will influence young couples.
Ma Li, who is expecting her first baby in December, said that a subsidy of 300,000 yuan still pales in comparison to the hefty cost of buying an apartment in more developed regions such as Zhejiang and Jiangsu province, where she lives.
She added that there are other ways of claiming housing subsidies.
"Some companies offer employees housing subsidies, and some local governments also offer them to attract skilled individuals," she said. "But having another baby is simply too costly."
So far, Ma said that she is against having a second child, let alone a third one.
"The harm that another pregnancy would do to my body, the financial burden of buying a larger apartment and intense academic competition are among the reasons for my decision," she said. "After all, the costs of having and raising a child cannot be measured with a single number."
He Dan, director of the China Population and Development Center, said during an interview with ifeng.com that the prime age for having children in China used to be around 20 but is now around 25.
"It is important to accept the choices of young people while offering guidance on encouraging marriage and births," she said. "Their choices are a reflection of policies and the external pressures they face. What we need to do is to influence their environments and enable them to make their own decisions."
She added that fertility support policies should not be one-time measures.
"I think we should create a legal framework and set up regulations to enforce the measures."
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