Xi says China’s women must start ‘new trend of family’

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping said women have a critical role and must establish a “new trend of family”, as the nation grapples with an ageing population and record decline in the birth rate.

Xi in comments, published on state news agency Xinhua on Monday, said the role of women had been part of a discussion with the new leadership team of the All China Women’s Federation, which operates under the Communist Party.

Doing a good job in women’s work is not only related to women’s own development, he said but also related to “family harmony, social harmony, national development and national progress”.

It is necessary to “actively cultivate a new culture of marriage and childbearing and strengthen guidance on young people’s view on marriage, childbirth and family,” he said.

Factors including high childcare costs, career hindrance, gender discrimination and not wanting to get married have deterred many young Chinese women from having children.

The number of births is closely tied to marriage rates because official policies make it hard for single women to have children.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics in January reported the first population drop in six decades and the country’s population is rapidly ageing.

In the last two years, authorities across China have unveiled measures to lift the country’s birth rate including financial incentives and boosting childcare facilities.

The state media has often linked population development to the strength and “rejuvenation” of the country.

(Reporting by Farah Master and the Beijing newsroom; editing by Barbara Lewis)