In This Part Of China, Special Loans To Urge Couples To Have Babies

Jilin province will support banks to provide up to 200,000 yuan of "marriage and birth consumer loans" to couples, according to an official blueprint

A Chinese province with one of the fastest-shrinking populations is rolling out special loans to encourage couples to marry and have babies, as the rapidly-aging country tries to reverse a slump in births.

Jilin province in northeast China will support banks to provide up to 200,000 yuan ($31,400) of "marriage and birth consumer loans" to married couples, according to an official blueprint on policies to promote population growth. There were no details on how the government would offer support, but the proposal includes discounted interest rates for the loans that vary according to the number of children a couple has.

China's birth rate has rapidly slowed over the past few years as fewer and fewer people have children. That slump has continued despite the government effectively abandoning any limit on the number of children a couple can have and trying to make it less expensive to raise a family, with some demographers estimating the population may have already started shrinking.

Other measures in the Jilin policy include allowing couples from other provinces to obtain a residence permit -- known as hukou -- and access public services in Jilin if they have children and register them there. Couples who have two or three kids will also get tax discounts if they set up a small business, according to the document which was issued Thursday.

Jilin is part of China's "rust belt" region which is known for heavy industry and agriculture. The area has seen the worst population declines and slow economic growth over the past decade, with Jilin province's economy expanding 7.8% in the first three quarters of this year from the same period in 2020, slower than the national average of 9.8%.

The consumer loan attracted controversy on social media platform Weibo.

"Families that need a loan to raise kids wouldn't want to have them in the first place, and it's not a good thing to increase their financial burden," according to one post. "After mortgage and car loans, now we have the birth loan. We are just working for the bank our entire life," another person lamented.

Like many other provinces, Jilin is extending maternity and paternity leave. Women will have 180 days of leave in total, up from 158 days previously, while men are entitled to 25 days, up from 15 days.

Couples will also each get 20 days of parental leave every year before their children turn three, the document said, and the province will also encourage kindergartens to set up daycare for children between ages two and three, according to the document.

Earlier this year, a Bank of China branch in the southeastern province of Jiangxi drew widespread criticism for promoting a loan product that targeted couples who had just had a child. The bank later said that it was only assessing the product and decided not to launch it because there wasn't enough demand, according to local media.