Saigon couples might get incentives to have second kid

By Le Phuong   November 28, 2019 | 11:56 pm PT
Saigon couples might get incentives to have second kid
First graders celebrate their new school year in Ho Chi Minh City, September 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
HCMC authorities are mulling incentives for couples having a second child as they seek to prop up a sagging birth rate.

The Department of Population and Family Planning has proposed subsidizing or waiving hospital fees for the delivery of the second child and offering families having two children soft loans to buy or rent houses.

These are meant only for official residents of the city and not migrants, the department said in the proposal, which will be submitted to the administration for drafting the population policy for 2021-25.

Other recommendations include extending maternity leave from six months to one year for having the second child and giving the father a month off, increasing the number of days of annual paid leave from 12 for employees having kids under five, and subsidizing kindergarten fees at public facilities for families with two kids.

In the last two decades the city's fertility rate has fallen from 1.76 children per woman to just 1.33 against the current national average of 2.1.

The rate is "seriously low", and would keep falling without timely intervention, Le Van Thanh, former head of the HCMC Institute for Development Studies’ social and cultural research office, said.

Pham Thi My Le, deputy head of the population department, said the pressure at work and at home in Vietnam's biggest city is precluding women from having babies.

There is also a growing trend among young people to marry late and have just one child or even none since it has become costly to raise children properly given the expenses on nutrition, education, healthcare, and entertainment, she said.

The rapid economic growth and improved lifestyles mean young couples seek to "enjoy life" and move around frequently, which also means they are not keen on having children, she said.

If a family has just one child, that child would in future have the onerous task of taking care of their parents and four grandparents, she said.

"[But] there is no guarantee that kids will be capable of doing so because they have been raised too carefully by six adults and might lack the necessary skills."

Low fertility causes a population decline and leads to an aging population, increasing pressure on the social security system, causing a decline in human resources, especially young workers, and has a negative impact on socio-economic development, she warned.

There is evidence from other countries that once the fertility rate falls to a certain level, incentives, despite their huge costs, do not revive that rate.

In the last 20 years Japan, Korea and Singapore have taken a series of intensive measures to encourage people to give birth, but have failed to take the rate beyond 1.3.

In Vietnam the aging population has become a national issue.

Around 12.4 percent of the population of 95 million will be 65 or above in 2030, a study released in June by market research firm Euromonitor showed.

This has prompted the nation to decide to raise the retirement age to 60 years for women and 62 for men.

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