China Gives Free Lottery Tickets to Couples to Boost Birth Rates

Posted on: February 29, 2024, 07:00h. 

Last updated on: March 1, 2024, 10:55h.

It’s a strange aphrodisiac. But the Chinese city of Xian plans to boost birthrates by giving out free lottery tickets to newlyweds, Reuters reports.

Chinese lottery, Xian, Xi’an, population decline, birthrates, China
A Chinese lottery winner celebrates his good fortune, above. The jury’s out on whether free lottery tickets could be a solution to the country’s declining birth rates. (Image: Guangxi Welfare Lottery Center)

City officials hope couples uncertain about the benefits of having children will be swayed by the offer. This comes at a time when fewer women are giving birth in China and an ongoing population decline could present future economic challenges.

The city will spend around 700K yuan (US$97K), enough to purchase up to 140K lottery tickets for happy newlyweds. They can qualify for the offer by presenting their marriage certificate to city officials. The pro-marriage promo will run from March 1 until November 30.

Lottery Explosion

Gambling has been illegal in China since the Communist Party took over in 1949. The exceptions are the state-run Welfare Lottery and Sports Lottery, established in 1987 and 1994, respectively.

While procreation appears to be going out of fashion in China, the lottery remains hugely popular, generating 375.76 billion yuan (US$21.7 billion) last year, according to the state-owned Xinhua news agency.

China’s population declined for a second consecutive year in 2023, falling by 2 million, and new births have dwindled to around half those of 2016 levels. Meanwhile, marriages were at a record low in 2022.

Birth rates are closely tied to marriages, because unmarried mothers can be denied childcare benefits, according to the Associated Press. Last week, China was named as one of the world’s most expensive places to raise a child relative to its GDP, according to a prominent Chinese think tank.

Reasons for Decline

China was facing a population explosion in 1980 when it adopted a “one-child-only” policy, which the Party hoped would help reduce poverty. This remained in place until 2015. But an offshoot was a growth in the male population relative to females. That’s because baby girls were seen as “less desirable,” and female fetuses were aborted.

In some cases, baby girls who were born were abandoned or even killed. Thousands were given up for adoption in the U.S. and other countries.

This has created a situation where, today, there are fewer females available for marriage. The birth rate is significantly lower now — approaching an average of one birth per woman — than it was at the height of the one-child-only policy in the late 1990s, when it was 1.5 per woman.

A level of 2.1 births per woman is required simply to maintain current population levels, according to the Chinese government, which is currently advocating three children per family.

The long-term economic impact of an aging population and a declining workforce are very serious concerns.

Are Lottery Tickets the Answer?

U.S. studies during the pandemic suggested that throwing around free lottery tickets isn’t a particularly effective incentive for social behavior change.

Research found that states that established “vaccine lotteries” to boost Covid vaccination programs had no greater uptake than those that didn’t.

Researchers theorized that the lack of a guaranteed outcome in a lottery may fail to motivate people. Meanwhile, free lottery tickets have traditionally tended to be very low on the list of considerations when it comes to starting a family.