A lot of ink on DINKs in China-Shanghai decides not to continue to subsidize them
Population control is a major issue for the Peoples Republic of China, the world's most populous nation. Family planning policies, the most famous and most successful of which is the one-child policy, have been in effect since the 70s, and are frequently being revised as new reproductive and social issues surface. Recent reports highlight the changing concerns, one of them being childless couples in prosperous urban cities.
Shortly after arriving in China last year, I became aware that young Chinese, particularly girls (in China you are called a girl until you are married or 30) are intensely interested in the phenomenon of DINKs (Double Income No Kids) and I have read a number of student papers on the subject. As the younger generation of Chinese explores evolving lifestyles, voluntarily going childless, something almost unheard of in previous generations, is an option that appeals to some couples in the contemporary transition to a market economy. It's gotten so popular, that Shanghai decided to stop subsidizing it.
BEIJING (Reuters) - After 11 years of negative population growth, China's eastern financial hub of Shanghai has canceled rewards for married couples who decide not to have children, Xinhua news agency said Tuesday.
Childless families, or "dinks" -- short for double income, no kids -- used to be given double the financial awards granted to couples that followed China's one-child policy, Xinhua said.
"If every couple is unwilling to reproduce, society will by no means develop in a healthy way," Dr Xia Yi, deputy director of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Population and Birth Control, was quoted as saying.
Last year, there were 57,000 new births in Shanghai, but 100,700 deaths, with natural population growth standing at minus 3.24 per thousand.
Married women in comfortable dink households may decide to wait to have children until after their ideal physiological age for childbirth, endangering the health of mothers and babies, Xinhua said.
With approximately 1.3 billion people, China is the world's most populous nation. It has stringent rules on family planning that allow couples usually to have just one child, at least in the cities, and limit numbers elsewhere.
Another article published last May, Doing the DINK cites statistics on DINK in China and contrasts contemporary reasoning with traditional caveats
BEIJING, May 25, (Xinhuanet) -- DINK, which means "double income and no kids," has become a new lifestyle for young couples in big cities. DINK families have been growing steadily in number since the 1980s.
There are now at least 600,000 DINK couples in China, mainly in big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangzhou. In Beijing, about 10% of young married couples say they do not intend to have children.
A recent survey by horizonkey.com found that since 1997, the number of couples in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Wuhan choosing to have children has fallen by 11.3%, while people aiming for DINK status increased by 1.1% to 10.51%.
Besides, most DINK couples have higher income. Among couples whose total monthly income was more than 5,000 yuan, 13.7% of them had opted for a DINK family unit. But among couples whose total monthly income was less than 1,500 yuan, the number was just 5.5%.
I want to be free!
Why do more and more couples choose not to have children? Many old people think that it is to have more freedom. They regard this as an irresponsible choice. "I know they have free choice, but if every family does not bear children, the human race would become extinct," said Hou Yuchuan, a retired middle school teacher. "Most adults received love an care from their parents. I think it is rather selfish if they do not then bear children and pay out the same love and care their parents gave them."
However, couples have their own reasons for DINK families.
"I think a child is a little 'destroyer' of the love between a couple," said Zhang, a woman in her twenties, to xinhua.net. "Life for my husband and I is easy and romantic. If we had a child it would spoil everything."
"We enjoy traveling, taking photos, reading books, taking exercise and enjoying all the delicious foods in Beijing, so having a baby is not in our plans," said a couple who have been married for seven years and did not wish to reveal their names. "life is short, we'd like to use all our money and time to enjoy life itself. Obviously, that would be impossible if we had a child."
But not all DINK families have such hedonistic attitudes. Zhou, who lives in Chaoyang and has been married for three years, also believes that a child might ruin his marital harmony, but in a different way.
"My wife and I often overhear our neighbors, a young couple as well, quarreling with each other on the issue of how to educate their son. Therefore we worry that if we had a child, the same thing would happen."
Many women worry about the course of gestation and giving birth. "Gestation takes almost ten months. How many 'ten months' does one have in her life? What a waste. Not to mention the care a child needs in the future," said Wu, who gave birth to a child at the end of the year. "I would rather not have had this child, but my husband insisted," she said.
Troubles and worries
However, the cost of freedom for DINK families is another set of pressures and worries.
Many think that the DINK idea is bad for the stability of a marriage. "I was married for six years, but it all came to nothing in the end," said Wu. I used to think that marriage without a child was free and easy, but I never thought that it would lead my marriage into a tomb."
At the beginning, after getting married, Wu was afraid that having a baby would change her figure and bring a premature end to her sweet married life, so having a child was put to one side. Though her mother-in-law was unhappy about it, Wu's? husband indulged her. Wu became pregnant twice but twice the couple decided on an abortion.
Time passed and eventually the couple decided they were ready to have a child. However, the medical examination found that the two abortions had damaged Wu's reproductive system, and there was no hope for a pregnancy. Her husband and her mother-in-law couldn't accept it, and blamed her for her selfishness. The quarrel in the family raged on, and Wu's husband divorced her in the end.
Today, China's urban birthrate is lower than the rural birthrate. The "One Child" policy is strictly implemented in cities, while in China's vast rural areas, it is still common to see one couple produce two or more children.
"Although China enjoys a low birth rate in general, the birthrate in rural areas, where medical care and education are hard to guarantee to children, is still on the rise," said the article.
There is also a gap between the birthrate in the country's well developed eastern areas and that in the economically backward western areas. The high-gear economic growth and fast life rhythm have changed urban people's opinion on child bearing.
The average marriage age and pregnancy age have climbed in China's economically developed cities and the concept of "DINK (double income no kids)" has been accepted by more and more affluent couples in those cities.
In metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai,the birthrates have been below zero, while in western areas, people still hold opinions like child bearing is for extending family tradition and therefore violation of family planning policy is frequently seen, the article [in CYD] said.
The article made a comment that population policies should not only focus on birth control, but the improvement of the whole population's quality. If the birthrate in rural areas keeps higher than that of urban areas, the economic development gap between urban and rural areas will be further enlarged and the country's comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development program will be undermined.
As recently as one or two decades ago, a married but childless couple would be scrutinized. There would be gossip about their physical wellbeing or their parents' urging to carry on the family line. After 25 years of reform and opening-up in China, the influence of Western culture is widespread, especially in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing. People are now showing more tolerance to ideas once considered unconventional and strange.
A recent survey by the Women's Association of Tianjin shows that in the city, a metropolis adjacent to Beijing in North China, over 60 per cent of the surveyed believe "bearing no children" is acceptable.
Statistics show that not all DINKs remain that way. A large percentage of them do have children eventually, after some delay.
Chi Guizhu, a gynecologist at the Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, however, cautioned those who postponed having kids.
"Once they change their mind, they may have missed the best time physically for bearing children," Chi said. "The best age to give birth for a woman is around 24 to 30 and a man 26 to 35. The older the couples are, the less active their eggs and semen, which will increase the risk of having babies with genetic defects. Moreover, a woman who does not have a child runs a higher risk of many diseases and will reach menopause earlier."
Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociologist at the Renmin University of China, expressed his concern over the DINK phenomenon.
"Those who remain as DINKs usually are people with high intellects and an abundance of talent," Zhou said. "So them having no children is unfavourable for the society as we are endeavoring to promote the quality of our country's population."
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