CHINA — The world’s biggest economy is trying to figure out what to do with the Chinese women who have babies outside the home and are in labour without being called to work.
The Ministry of Health and Family Planning, in an annual report released Thursday, estimated that 7,500 pregnant women will be in labour this year, up from 5,000 in 2015.
They are the second largest group of pregnant women in China, after the rural women, and many are poor.
China has some of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates and most of the pregnant women have been born outside the country.
Its authorities have said they want to boost its own birth rate and are hoping for a rapid recovery from the economic slowdown.
But with no shortage of demand and no clear answer, the government has been trying to devise new methods to deal with the issue.
“China is going through an economic downturn.
That means more and more people are becoming pregnant,” said Zhao Yipeng, an expert on the health care sector at the China Institute of Political Science in Beijing.
Many mothers and their families are struggling to find jobs, and the shortage of labour market jobs has put pressure on the supply of labour, Zhao said.
Women with children are also finding it more difficult to find work.
China’s population is growing rapidly, and a growing number of them are turning to work for lower pay and better benefits than before the 2008 financial crisis.
Some provinces have also launched new policies aimed at boosting the birth rate.
In the northeast province of Hebei, women who don’t work during the workday are required to take part in childbirth classes.
Hebei is one of the poorest provinces in China and is known for its poor health care and low birth rate, said Zhou Yang, a professor of urban planning at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.
A growing number women are choosing to work part-time or even full-time to support their families, said Wang Jianping, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing who has studied the issue for more than a decade.
Wang said the government is trying hard to boost the number of women working.
She said it’s not a new trend.
About 2.5 million Chinese women have become pregnant in the past five years, a rise of about 2.3 percent from 2010, the latest data available, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Beijing has made plans to boost birth rates in the last decade, including a program to help mothers choose a career path.
While the Chinese government has stepped up its efforts, the problem of overwork has persisted, said Li Xinping, an economist at the Center for Social Research at the National University of Singapore.
More than one in five Chinese women work in the home, he said.
“There is not a clear answer,” Li said.
“The government has to find a new way to deal.”
Many of China’s large cities are already grappling with the problem.
Xinhua said the number the country has to absorb from a large migrant population has been increasing by 30 percent a year since 2007, which is about twice the growth rate of the population.