The government will raise public knowledge of ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies and minimize unjustified abortions.
To increase one of the lowest birth rates in the world, China will discourage abortions and take steps to make fertility therapy more accessible, the country's National Health Authority announced on Tuesday.
According to instructions posted on the authority's website, support measures would be strengthened and implemented, ranging from taxation and insurance to education and housing, and local governments would be urged to expand child care services and family-friendly workplaces.
To raise public awareness and "avoid unwanted pregnancy and reduce abortions that are not medically necessary," the authority announced it will promote reproductive health.
The OECD benchmark for a stable population is 2.1; China's fertility rate in 2021 was 1.16, which was among the lowest in the world.
The rules were released at a time when demographers claim that China's rigorous "zero-COVID" policy of containing outbreaks by tightly regulating people's lifestyles may have seriously harmed people's willingness to have children.
The body promised to provide local governments with guidance as they gradually integrate assisted reproductive technology into the country's healthcare system. In China, technology like IVF is frequently exceedingly expensive and out of the reach of single women.
Demographers predict that new births in China, which has a population of 1.4 billion, will reach record lows this year and slip below 10 million from last year's 10.6 million newborns, which were already 11.5% of the population.
The one-child policy was in place in China from 1980 to 2015, and the country has now formally declared that it is about to experience a demographic decline. In 2016, it was amended to a two-child policy, and in 2021, it was altered once more to allow married couples to have up to three children.
Authorities have started implementing policies over the past year, including tax deductions, extended maternity leave, improved medical insurance, housing subsidies, more funding for a third child, and a crackdown on pricey private tutoring.
The rules announced on Tuesday are the most extensive notice at the national level, and they include a call to curb abortions, which have long been widely available.
The measures were important for "supporting the long-term balanced development of the population," the authorities claimed.
A National Health Commission report released at the end of 2021 stated that over 9.5 million abortions were performed between 2015 and 2019.