Vietnam considers scrapping two-child birth limit amid falling birth rates

In a report on the impacts of the proposed Law on Population, the Ministry of Health said the law would aim for the nationwide replacement birth rate to be at 2.1 children per woman. The law will also not dictate the maximum number of children a couple may have.

This is a stark change from the Ordinance on Population, the most important legal document in Vietnam regarding population, which states that a couple or an individual may only bear up to two children “except for special circumstances dictated by the government.”

The health ministry said letting parents decide on the number of children they will have would help prevent low birth rates, which would result in an aging population that negatively affects socioeconomic development.

The ministry said the Law on Population would aim to adjust the current birth rates, as well as educating people on marriage and family. Employers have the responsibility to let workers gain access to such information to plan their families appropriately for their working environment.

Lawmakers said the state needs to ensure there is enough budget to support and encourage people to follow the policy, ensuring appropriate replacement birth rates.

Vietnam’s birth rates have been falling, and there are large discrepancies between birth rates in different areas and groups.

Regions with poor economic prospects often have high birth rates, while birth rates in urban areas are low, with certain areas being even lower than the replacement birth rates. People in urban areas are also less likely to have children at all.

Mai Trung Son, from the Vietnam Population Authority, said falling birth rates were a global trend, but progressing quickly in Vietnam and more prominent than ever.

In previous years, a woman in urban areas would bear more than 1.7 children on average, but that figure has dropped to below 1.7 recently. In rural areas, this year’s birth rates have also fallen below the replacement birth rates.

Two regions in particular: southeastern Vietnam and the Mekong Delta, are currently seeing alarmingly low birth rates, at 1.5 children per woman on average. Regions with high birth rates are the northern midlands and north-central Vietnam.

Over the last three years, birth rates in 21 Vietnamese localities have been rising slightly, but several other localities have been seeing sharp drops in birth rates, especially in HCMC where birth rates have dropped to 1.32 children per woman.

Only four localities have reached the required replacement birth rates: Hanoi, Lam Dong, Phu Yen and Binh Dinh.

Experts said women in HCMC, Vietnam’s largest city, choose to have fewer children, or even none, due to economic pressure, including their jobs, living costs and the costs of raising a child.

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