China offers women benefits for having babies, if they are married

When Chan Zhang heard about the United States Supreme Court’s decision to quash Roe v. Wade she was baffled that Americans were still ar...


When Chan Zhang heard about the United States Supreme Court’s decision to quash Roe v. Wadeshe was baffled that Americans were still arguing over abortion rights.

“Here, as a whole, society does not encourage abortion,” said Ms. Zhang, a 37-year-old professor at a prestigious university on China’s east coast, “but I have the impression that women have the right to decide whether they want to have an abortion.

Abortion, like almost all reproductive issues in China, is heavily centered on the authority of the Chinese Communist Party. The party for decades forced abortions and the sterilizations of women under its one-child policy. Today, faced with the demographic crisis, he wants women to have more than one child — and preferably three.

But Beijing still dictates who can have babies, discriminating lone woman like Ms. Zhang and minorities by draconian family planning policies. The question now, many women say, is why they would choose to have babies.

With China’s birth rate at historic low, authorities handed out tax and housing credits, educational benefits, and even cash incentives to encourage women to have more children. Yet the benefits are only available to married couples, a prerequisite that is increasingly unattractive to independent women who, in some cases, would prefer to be alone.

Babies born to single parents in China have long struggled to receive social benefits like medical insurance and education. Single and pregnant women are routinely denied access to public health care and insurance that covers maternity leave. They are not legally protected if employers fire them because they are pregnant.

Some single women, including Ms. Zhang, simply choose not to have children, quietly pushing back against Beijing’s control over women’s bodies. Those who find ways to circumvent the rules often face consequences from the state.

“A lot of people think that being a single mother is a process of confronting public opinion, but it’s not,” said Sarah Gao, 46, a single mother who lives in Beijing and who lives in Beijing. talks openly about reproductive rights. “It’s actually that system.”

Chinese law requires a pregnant woman and her husband to register their marriage to get prenatal care at a public hospital. When Ms. Gao found out she was pregnant, she had to tell doctors at a hospital that her husband was overseas for admission.

Her daughter was born in November 2016. Eight months later, Ms. Gao was fired from her job, prompting her to file a lawsuit accusing the company of workplace discrimination. The company won because Ms. Gao is not entitled to legal benefits and protections as a single mother.

The court said his single birth “did not conform to China’s national policy”. She appeals for the third time.

China’s national family planning policy does not explicitly state that a single woman cannot have children, but it defines a mother as a married woman and favors married mothers. Villages offer cash bonuses to families with new babies. Dozens of cities have extended maternity leave and added an extra month for mothers married for the second or third time. One province in northwest China is even considering a full year off. Some have createdparental breaks» for married couples with young children.

But sweeteners do little to reverse the demographic crisis, especially in the face of the steady decline in China’s marriage rate, which has reached a 36 year low last year. Women who came of age during the greatest period of economic growth in modern Chinese history are increasingly concerned that their hard-earned independence will be taken away from them if they settle down.

A politician at the last annual meeting of his Chinese legislature suggested the party be more tolerant of single women who want children, giving them the same rights as married couples. However, even as decrease in population threatens Beijing’s long-term economic ambitions, Chinese authorities have often failed to introduce lasting political change.

Last year, authorities decided to scrap the use of “social support” fees – a kind of penalty – that single mothers pay to get benefits for their children. But some regions have been slow to adopt the new rules, and regulations may vary as enforcement is left to the discretion of local governments. Recent Changes in Chinese Legislation make illegal to discriminate against the children of single parents, but some women still have to navigate an unsympathetic bureaucracy.

Last year, the landlocked province of Hunan said it would consider providing fertility services to single women, but it hasn’t made much progress. When Shanghai decided to let go of politics to grant maternity benefits only to married women, he reversed his decision a few weeks later, pointing out how difficult it is for the authorities to loosen their grip on family planning.

“On a societal level, it is a threat to the legally recognized institution of marriage and social stability,” said Zheng Mu, an assistant professor of sociology at the National University of Singapore who studies fertility in China.

Ten years ago, Kelly Xie, 36, got married because she wanted to have a child. “I had reached that age at the time, and then I was picking and choosing and it seemed like he was the most appropriate,” she said. Four years later, she gave birth to a daughter, but she was unhappy in her marriage.

Her mother-in-law adored her husband and was quick to criticize Ms. Xie if something was wrong at home, sometimes even calling her at work to complain about dust in the corner or an unwashed plate. in the sink.

Now divorced, Ms. Xie said she would like to have a second child on her own, but her options are limited. One option is to travel abroad for in vitro fertilization, or IVF, which can be prohibitively expensive for some women. For now, Ms. Xie is searching the Internet, hoping to find someone willing to help her get pregnant the old-fashioned way.

Providing single mothers with maternity insurance to cover the costs of fertility services like IVF would be a great source of support for single women, Ms Xie said. In Beijing, for example, married women can now freeze their eggs and get other subsidized IVF services as part of the city’s medical insurance benefits, under a new “fertility support” policy. “.

IVF is illegal for single women almost everywhere in the country, which is why Li Xueke traveled to Thailand at the age of 29 to undergo the procedure. An entrepreneur who made her fortune running modeling schools, Ms Li figured that if she hadn’t found a man she wanted to marry at 30, she would have a baby on her own.

She ended up with triplets, and nearly three years later, she doesn’t regret her decision.

“I think I’d rather live a high-quality life as a single mother than get married and settle for less,” said Ms. Li, who doesn’t need any financial help from the government and can hire. nannies to help take care of her children.

But even among the most educated and accomplished women in China, Ms. Li is an exception. Many successful women who want to have a child but are put off by the country’s policies towards single mothers have decided not to get pregnant.

“If you really want to have a baby without a man,” faculty member Ms. Zhang said, “you have to fight for it.”

Claire Crazy and Zixu Wang contributed to the research.

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Newsrust - US Top News: China offers women benefits for having babies, if they are married
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