China, like Japan, faces a demographic crisis, and like Japan, the central planners have decided to do something about it.
Japan has tried a few things - from imposing "handsome taxes" to make it easier for uglier men to get laid, to changing women's attitudes towards sex as "bothersome," but so far it is not working as young Japanese men appear to prefer the company of their AI girlfriends.
But, while Japan went with the 'carrot' incentive for encourage more fornication; China, having relinquished its one-child policy three years ago, prefers the 'stick' to change Chinese people's attitudes towards baby-making.
As The South China Morning Post reports, a proposal to tax all working adults aged under 40 – with the money going to a “reproduction fund” to reward families who have more than one child – has caused uproar in China.
The proposal comes amid a nationwide campaign to encourage people to have more children – a drastic turnaround after a one-child policy that lasted nearly four decades and only ended three years ago – as Beijing worries about a rapidly ageing society, shrinking workforce and falling birth rate creating a demographic time bomb.
Couples can now have two children but the birth rate is falling despite the new policy.
And the working-age population has peaked (just as much of the western world has also)
And here is why that is a major, existential problem for Xi - as China attempts to transition from a pure debt-driven 'production' economy to a 'consumption' economy, the core consuming base of the nation is collapsing...
But, as SCMP notes, the proposal was roundly criticised, with some saying it was reminiscent of the way the Chinese government controlled its population for so many years.
Under the policy introduced in 1979, people were fined for having more than one child and women were forced to have abortions or sterilisation procedures. Critics said both the old policy and the latest proposal violated basic human rights.
In the first six months, the number of births in mainland China fell by 15 to 20 per cent in many provinces from a year ago, according to local government data. Last year, some 17.58 million babies were born – down by 630,000 from 2016, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
To tackle the problem, the academics proposed ways to encourage people to have more children, including taxing women and men under 40 for a “reproduction fund” that families with more than one child could claim subsidies from. Those who were not eligible would receive their contributions back when they reached retirement age. They said a certain proportion of people’s wages would be taxed and the government could top up the fund as necessary, without giving further details.
The reactions have been almost universally negative, as SCMP reports:
Huang Rongqing, former head of the population and economics institute at Capital University of Economics and Business in Beijing, described the suggestion as “ridiculous”.
“The choice of whether or not you have a baby is a family’s decision to make. We can encourage people to have babies with incentives but not by forcing taxes on everyone. This would be a violation of human rights, just like it was when we used to limit the population,” Huang said.
“They have the freedom to make suggestions, but I was really surprised that such well-educated professors could come up with such a wacky proposal,” he said.
State broadcaster CCTV called the proposal “absurd” in an editorial on its website on Friday.
And state tabloid The Beijing News asked, “What has other people having more babies got to do with me?”
And finally, in Shanghai, Dora Li, who has a five-year-old daughter and does not plan to have another child, said she was disgusted by the idea.
“Many mothers were forced to go overseas to have a second baby because of the one-child policy. If this proposal goes ahead, then I guess many more would have to leave in order not to have another kid,” she said.
“Education and medical resources haven’t improved, so it costs too much to raise another child. ”
And Li concludes with perhaps the most poignant perspective on China's central planners proposals...
"They only consider the social costs and the country’s birth rate – it’s never about the happiness of individual families."
Of course, the bigger question in all of this is whether Japan is providing a glimpse of all our futures? Many of the shifts there are occurring in other advanced nations, too. Across urban Asia, Europe and America, people are marrying later or not at all, birth rates are falling, single-occupant households are on the rise and, in countries where economic recession is worst, young people are living at home...