Regions across China have introduced family-friendly policies, including extending maternity leaves and rewarding couples for having a second child this year, to improve the country's low fertility rate.
However, demographers expressed doubts about these policies, saying that the country should first cancel fines and penalties to couples who violate family planning policies.
Shihezi in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region recently adopted five new policies for families who have two children, the director of the maternity insurance department of the Shihezi Human Resource and Social Security Bureau surnamed Zhou, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Maternity leaves for women who have a second child have been extended from 98 days to 128 days, and prenatal examinations during working hours are also counted in work hours, Zhou said.
"These policies ensure that women need not worry about paying during pregnancy and maternity leave even if the company they are working for are not profitable, as the social insurance will cover it," Zhou said.
"But encouraging more births requires comprehensive policies from other government agencies, such as education policies," Zhou added.
Thirty regions in China have extended paid maternity leaves to up to a year since 2017, one year after the country amended its family planning policy to allow all families to have a second child.
Some cities also granted subsidies to families of four. Yichang in Central China's Hubei Province offers free child delivery services to women having a second child, and Xiantao in Hubei even gives couples 1,200 yuan ($179) for giving birth to a second child, news site thepaper.cn reported Wednesday.
Northeast China's Liaoning Province said it vows to improve tax, education, social welfare and housing policies to a family of four.
However, He Yafu, a demographer, told the Global Times on Wednesday that these supportive policies would have a very limited effect on encouraging births, as China still penalizes families which have three or more children.
Such penalties have created the misconception that more births would harm the country's development, according to He.
"The government should immediately abandon 'social maintenance fees,' which are used to fine people for violating the family planning policy," He said.
Penalties against civil servants or employees from public institutions should also be removed, he said.
China has not yet released the 2017 fertility rate. But in 2016 it was 1.7, a rate that experts previously said is on the red line, going by the Low Fertility Trap Hypothesis.