Dynamics of Low Fertility, Opportunity Costs of Childbearing, and Impacts of Fertility on Women’s Labour Force Participation and Subjective Wellbeing under China’s Two-Child Policy
The most populous nation in the world, and with a unique trajectory to low fertility, China has experienced the challenges brought about by low fertility and associated institutional changes similar to those seen elsewhere. Since the recent implementation of the two-child policy in China, there have been growing concerns about the extent to which the policy will be effective in boosting fertility and about how it will affect women’s labour force participation and subjective well-being. However, there is ongoing debate and confusion on what the actual fertility rate in China is. In addition, research into the effects of socioeconomic and psychological factors on fertility decision-making, as well as into the impacts of childbearing on women’s labour force participation and subjective well-being, has been inadequate. Using a wide range of large-scale survey data related to fertility decision-making and family studies, this thesis investigates the dynamics of low fertility, fertility preferences and their determinants, and the impacts of childbearing on women’s labour force participation and subjective well-being in the context of China under the two-child policy. Further, it examines the effects of the implementation of that policy on women’s labour force participation and subjective well-being. The results suggest that the implementation of the two-child policy has had limited effect in boosting fertility and fertility preferences in China, although it significantly increases fertility for parity two. Women’s perceived opportunity costs play an important role in preventing women from transiting their fertility ideals to intentions. The results also show that, for Chinese women with at least one child, the number of children they have is negatively associated with both their labour force participation and their subjective well-being; the early stages of motherhood decrease women’s labour force participation but slightly increase their subjective well-being; delaying motherhood increases women’s labour force participation but decreases their subjective well-being; and the implementation of the universal two-child policy tended to worsen women’s labour force participation but had no significant effect on their subjective well-being. The thesis sheds new lights on our understanding of sustained low fertility in China even under the new fertility policy, and generates significant implications for the viii formulation of social policies that aim to boost women’s fertility, labour force participation and subjective well-being.