China’s National Health Authority said Tuesday it will discourage abortions and make fertility treatment more accessible to boost one of the world’s lowest birth rates.

Local governments would be encouraged to boost infant care services and family-friendly workplaces, according to the authority’s website.

The authority said it would promote reproductive health to “preventing unintended pregnancy and reducing abortions that are not medically necessary.”

In 2021, China’s fertility rate was 1.16, well below the 2.1 OECD standard for a stable population.

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The authority said it would guide local governments to gradually include ART in its medical system. In China, unmarried women can’t afford IVF technology.

New births in China, with a population of 1.4 billion, are expected to drop below 10 million this year from last year’s 10.6 million babies, which were 11.5% lower than in 2020.

China, which had a one-child policy from 1980 to 2015, acknowledges a demographic downturn. In 2016, it changed to a two-child policy and in 2021 to three.

Authorities have introduced tax deductions, longer maternity leave, enhanced medical insurance, housing subsidies, extra money for a third child, and a crackdown on expensive private tutoring.

Tuesday’s guidelines are the most comprehensive at a national level, including a reference to reducing abortions, which has been widely available for years.

The authority said the measures promote “promoting the long-term balanced development of the population.”

A National Health Commission report published in 2021 said there were over 9.5 million abortions between 2015 and 2019.

Source: Reuters

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