International

In China, Beijing moves to subsidize IVF in hopes of boosting population

IVF, Hungary, China

After decades of coercive population control schemes — first a one-child policy, followed by a two-child policy, which has now been “relaxed” to allow for three children — China finds itself with a radically skewed gender ratio fed by sex-selective abortions that has led to a plague of sex trafficking and slavery.

In spite of the recent relaxing of restrictions on family size, China’s fertility rate continues to stagnate. It is currently well below replacement level at 1.7 births per female, and has been climbing by a mere 0.18% annually for the last four years. Its birth rate, on the other hand — the number of births per 1,000 people — has steadily declined over 2% annually for the last four years, and currently stands below average at 10.902. 

In an effort to counteract these dismal trends, the city of Beijing has moved to subsidize specific assisted reproductive technologies, including in-vitro fertilization (IVF), via its health insurance programs. However, this measure is unlikely to have a significant net effect, given the low success rate of such treatments. IVF, for example, has a mere 20-30% success rate. 

In-vitro fertilization in particular has additional caveats beyond its low rate of success. For every child born via this method, countless others are discarded or are left frozen indefinitely, making IVF a very costly procedure in human terms — not to mention the financial expense. Children born via IVF also face a host of unique physical and psychological challenges, further complicating this assisted-reproduction gambit.

READ: These 3 things could be contributing to the plummeting U.S. birth rate

Nonetheless, some cheered the news from Beijing. Share prices of various Chinese fertility clinics rose in the wake of the announcement. Some individuals likewise responded favorably; Beijing resident Luo Yanan told Sixth Tone she spent over 50,000 yuan on unsuccessful IVF procedures last year. Nonetheless, she intends to try again, and is happy it will be covered by insurance. 

Zhou Fang, on the other hand, has spent nearly 400,000 yuan on IVF. “For families like mine, having no baby would mean the end of our marriage,” she said. “It’s a disaster. I have to use any means possible to have a baby, no matter how much money I have to borrow.” 

Other countries — like Iran, Japan, Hungary, Korea, and Russia — have turned to subsidizing assisted reproduction, including IVF, to bolster their declining fertility rates, with little evidence of success.

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