Beijing’s decision to allow couples to have three children reflects China’s two-pronged population problem — an aging and shrinking labor force. It is not clear how the three-child limit is expected to succeed where the two-child rule, introduced only a few years ago, failed to result in a sustained increase in the birth rate.
The country’s population problem revolves around women, who outnumber men at college and postgraduate education levels. China not only needs women to bolster today’s labor force, but also to boost the fertility rate — or deliver children who would supply the labor force of the future.
The question is how to persuade them to combine families and careers without the latter — and probably both — suffering. The answer must include major budget outlays to cushion the high cost of living and other pressures, such as housing and education, maternity leave, medical care, job protection and tax breaks.