In an effort to boost the country's low birth rate, China's National Health Authority announced Tuesday that it will discourage abortions and take measures to make fertility treatment more accessible, International Business Times reported.
The authority published guidelines on its website that, among other steps, will encourage local governments to increase infant care services and family friendly workplaces. The authority also stated that it would implement reproductive health promotion to boost public awareness while "preventing unintended pregnancy and reducing abortions that are not medically necessary."
China's fertility rate, which was 1.16 last year, was significantly below the 2.1 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development standard for a stable population and among the lowest in the world.
Demographers say that the new guidelines come as Beijing’s strict "zero-COVID" policy that has placed controls on lives may have caused damage on their desire to have children.
China, which imposed a one-child policy for 35 years until 2015, then allowed two children per couple and last year permitted married couples to have up to three, according to the International Business Times.
The government fears that a labor shortage will put a dent in the country's economic growth, which has been supported in recent decades by China's large working-age population, according to The Telegraph.
The country's leadership is also concerned that continued low birth rates could eventually harm China's ability to influence foreign policy.
There were an estimated 9.5 million abortions in China from 2015-19, and pro-choice activists said they are concerned that Beijing's new policy of limiting access to abortions will harm the rights of women.
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