Vietnamese women in China fear cost of raising more than one child

By Hong Hanh   June 11, 2021 | 05:30 am PT
Vietnamese women in China fear cost of raising more than one child
People pick up children from a school in Beijing, China, April 6, 2021. Photo by Reuters/Thomas Peter.
Vietnamese women living in China do not plan to oblige the government, which wants families to have three children, saying having more than one is unaffordable.

Living in Beijing, Doan Thi Quynh spends around 6,000 yuan ($938) a month for her son’s school tuitions.

When asked about the Chinese government's new plan to encourage couples to have a third child, the 35-year-old, who is married to a Chinese man and has a three-year-old boy, said she has no intention of having more children.

Quynh, who hails from Quang Ninh Province, graduated with a master's degree in China, and has been living in Beijing for more than nine years.

After having her son she stayed at home to look after the child because the Beijing government requires children to be three years old to attend public kindergartens.

Public schools cost less than 1,000 yuan ($156) a month but private schools could charge up to 6,500 yuan ($1,015).

Tom, Quynh's son, is not old enough to attend a public school. Since she wants to tighten the belt, she spends money on extracurricular activity classes such as horseback riding, drawing and strider bikes.

"When the state gives 5,000 yuan ($781) a month to raise children until they are 18 and offer free tuitions, maybe I will consider having another child," she jokes.

"Every month I spend 6,000 yuan. My husband and I agreed not to have any more children since we can't afford to have more kids.

"But many of my Chinese friends who are well-off also do not want to have a second child because they have no experience in raising children. So they only have one child and focus on raising the kid well.

Tom durring

Tom attends a horse riding class in March 2021. Photo courtesy of Doan Thi Quynh.

"Though the government urges people to have a third child, it does not have a solid plan to promote that campaign, and people have mixed opinions about this issue. Many couples who already had a second child have not seen any benefits. Their intimacy and happiness go down and divorce rates go up."

Quynh says her family only has one child, but the couple still "argue all day."

"Sometimes we get up in the middle of the night to have a discussion on how to raise our kid."

Despite the government's efforts to encourage families to have more children, the birth rate continues to plummet, reaching a record low in census figures released earlier this month.

The National Bureau of Statistics said 12 million babies were born last year, down 18 percent from 2019 and representing the lowest fertility rate in nearly six decades.

The current rate is 1.3 children per woman, well below the 2.1 needed to ensure a stable population.

Nguyen Thi Thu Ha, 36, an ethnic Vietnamese from Hai Phong working at the Center For China In The World Economy, concurs with Quynh.

She is married to her PhD classmate, currently an associate professor at a prestigious university in Beijing.

"My husband wants to have more children, but I have had enough. The more a child studies, the more time their parents need to be by their side to tutor the kid. My husband and I are both busy."

Their daughter, My My, is almost four and attends a public kindergarten run by Tsinghua University. She also goes to gymnastics class twice a week for 90 minutes each.

My My during an extracurricular class on June 7, 2021. Video by Nguyen Thi Thu Ha.

Ha believes not many couples will opt for a third child even with the government’s encouragement.

"I am already tired raising just one child," she says with a laugh.

Nguyen Phuong Giang, 34, has one child and does not want more, but her husband does. She quit her job as a customer care director at a real estate company in Nanning City more than two years ago to give birth to a son they named Eric. She is waiting for her child to become old enough to attend kindergarten so that she can go back to work.

"After Eric was born we took turns staying at home to take care of him. He consumes six to seven cartons of milk his grandmother sent from Australia each month. Clothes and shoes have to be changed constantly because he is growing fast. We spend around 10,000 yuan ($1,600) a month to raise the child, or 50 percent of the family's budget."

The Hai Phong native, who has two university degrees from China and Australia, says: "My husband usually gives in to my wishes, so I am not pressured. I do not want to have more children because I want to spend time developing my career."

For nearly 40 years China enforced a ‘one-child policy,’ one of the strictest family planning regulations in the world.

It rescinded the policy in 2016 due to concerns about an aging workforce and sluggish economy.

Last year it estimated the population would peak in 2027, but demographers believe China's population will start declining even earlier.

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