As world population hits 8 billion, China frets over too few babies

As world population hits 8 billion, China frets over too few babies
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Chinese nurses attend to babies at an infant care centre in Yongquan, Chongqing in this photograph taken on Dec. 15, 2016. (AFP)
As world population hits 8 billion, China frets over too few babies
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This photo taken on Dec. 13, 2016 shows hospital staff nursing babies at the Xiyuege Center in Beijing. (AFP)
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Updated 14 November 2022

As world population hits 8 billion, China frets over too few babies

As world population hits 8 billion, China frets over too few babies
  • China was for decades preoccupied with the prospect of runaway population growth and imposed a strict one-child policy from 1980 to 2015 to keep numbers in check

BEIJING/HONG KONG: Chinese software developer Tang Huajun loves playing with his two-year-old in their apartment on the outskirts of Beijing but he said he is unlikely to have another child.
Such decisions by countless people like Tang will determine the course not only of China’s population but that of the world, which the United Nations says is projected to reach 8 billion on Tuesday.
Tang, 39, said many of his married friends have only one child and, like him, they are not planning any more. Younger people aren’t even interested in getting married let alone having babies, he said.

The high cost of childcare is a major deterrent to having children in China, with many families in an increasingly mobile society unable to rely for help on grandparents who might live far away.
“Another reason is that many of us get married very late and its hard to get pregnant,” Tang said. “I think getting married late will definitely have an impact on births.”
China was for decades preoccupied with the prospect of runaway population growth and imposed a strict one-child policy from 1980 to 2015 to keep numbers in check.
But now the United Nations expects China’s population will start shrinking from next year, when India will likely become the world’s most populous country.
China’s fertility rate of 1.16 in 2021 was below the 2.1 OECD standard for a stable population and among the lowest in the world.

The anguish of the coronavirus pandemic and China’s strict measures to stamp it out may also have had a profound impact on the desire of many people to have children, demographers say.
New births in China are set to fall to record lows this year, demographers say, dropping below 10 million from last year’s 10.6 million — which was already 11.5 percent lower than in 2020.
Beijing last year began allowing couples to have up to three children and the government has said it is working toward achieving an “appropriate” birth rate.
Old people, new problems
For planners, a shrinking population poses a whole new set of problems.
“We expect the aging population to increase very rapidly. This is a very important situation facing China, different to 20 years ago,” said Shen Jianfa, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The proportion of the population over the age of 65 is now about 13 percent but is set to rise sharply. A declining labor force faces an increasing burden of looking after the rising numbers of old folk.
“It will be very high for some years,” Shen said of the proportion of elderly in the population. “That’s why the country has to prepare for the coming aging.”
Alarmed by the prospect of an aging society, China has been trying to encourage couples to have more children with tax breaks and cash handouts, as well as more generous maternity leave, medical insurance and housing subsidies.
But demographers say the measures are not enough. They cite high education costs, low wages and notoriously long working hours, along with frustration over COVID curbs and the overall state of the economy.
A key factor is job prospects for young people, said Stuart Gietel Basten, professor at Hong Kong’s University of Science and Technology.
“Why would you have more babies when the people you have cannot even get jobs?”

 


Countries call for WHO swift action on sexual abuse

Countries call for WHO swift action on sexual abuse
Updated 16 sec ago

Countries call for WHO swift action on sexual abuse

Countries call for WHO swift action on sexual abuse
  • “Complaints must be addressed in a timely manner, and perpetrators held to account, so we strongly support efforts to strengthen WHO’s investigative capacity,” the member states said

GENEVA: More than 50 countries on Tuesday told the World Health Organization that they wanted perpetrators of sexual abuse within the WHO to be swiftly held to account.
Survivors of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (SEAH) must also be given proper support, the countries told the UN health agency’s executive board meeting.
The WHO has been under intense pressure to make far-reaching changes following revelations in 2020 of widespread sexual abuse by humanitarian workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
British ambassador Simon Manley delivered a joint statement on behalf of 57 countries, voicing “deep concerns” about allegations of SEAH, and the alleged abuse of authority by WHO staff and contractors.
The countries included all 27 EU member states, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Chile, Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, South Korea and Ukraine.
They recognized that progress had been made in recent years, and praised the bravery of survivors and whistleblowers in speaking out.
“Building a culture based on integrity, transparency and accountability is crucial,” the countries said.
“We encourage WHO management to set the tone and lead by example in these areas, particularly by establishing clear responsibility and accountability lines.
“We strongly support WHO’s investment in capacity-building and training for staff. This work should build awareness of the power differentials and inequalities between victims and perpetrators that lie at the root of SEAH.”
They called for a shift toward an approach centered on victims and survivors.
“Complaints must be addressed in a timely manner, and perpetrators held to account, so we strongly support efforts to strengthen WHO’s investigative capacity,” the member states said.
“We expect prompt and confidential reporting to be provided to member states, including on the actions taken to address SEAH.”
The 34-member executive board’s job is to advise the World Health Assembly of member states — the WHO’s decision-making body — and implement its decisions.
The 152nd session of the WHO executive board started on Monday and runs until February 7.
The WHO says it has zero tolerance for any form of sexual misconduct by any of its workforce and takes prompt action whenever an allegation is raised.
 

 


US, India partnership targets arms and AI to compete with China

US, India partnership targets arms and AI to compete with China
Updated 16 min 18 sec ago

US, India partnership targets arms and AI to compete with China

US, India partnership targets arms and AI to compete with China
  • Washington wants to deploy more Western mobile phone networks in the subcontinent to counter China’s Huawei Technologies, to welcome more Indian computer chip specialists to the United States

WASHINGTON: The White House is launching a partnership with India on Tuesday that President Joe Biden hopes will help the countries compete against China on military equipment, semiconductors and artificial intelligence.
Washington wants to deploy more Western mobile phone networks in the subcontinent to counter China’s Huawei Technologies, to welcome more Indian computer chip specialists to the United States and to encourage companies from both countries to collaborate on military equipment like artillery systems.
The White House faces an uphill battle on each front, including US restrictions on military technology transfer and visas for immigrant workers, along with India’s longstanding dependence on Moscow for military hardware.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, are meeting with senior officials from both countries at the White House on Tuesday to launch the US-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies.
“The larger challenge posed by China — its economic practices, its aggressive military moves, its efforts to dominate the industries of the future and to control the supply chains of the future have had a profound impact on the thinking in Delhi,” said Sullivan.
New Delhi has frustrated Washington by participating in military exercises with Russia and increasing purchases of the country’s crude oil, a key source of funding for Russia’s war in Ukraine. But Washington has held its tongue, nudging the country on Russia while condoning India’s more hawkish stance on China.
On Monday, Sullivan and Doval participated in a Chamber of Commerce event with corporate leaders from Lockheed Martin Corp, Adani Enterprises and Applied Materials Inc.
While India is part of the Biden administration’s signature Asian engagement project Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), it has opted against joining the IPEF trade pillar negotiations.
The initiative also includes a joint effort on space and high-performance quantum computing.
General Electric Co, meanwhile, is asking the US government for permission to produce jet engines with India that would power aircraft operated and produced by India, according to the White House, which says a review is underway.


Baldwin charged for ‘reckless handling’ of gun in ‘Rust’ shooting

Baldwin charged for ‘reckless handling’ of gun in ‘Rust’ shooting
Updated 6 min 41 sec ago

Baldwin charged for ‘reckless handling’ of gun in ‘Rust’ shooting

Baldwin charged for ‘reckless handling’ of gun in ‘Rust’ shooting
  • Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot on the set of Western movie ‘Rust’ in 2021
  • Alec Baldwin has denied responsibility for the shooting, saying he cocked the revolver but never pulled the trigger

Actor Alec Baldwin and set armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were charged with involuntary manslaughter on Tuesday for the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Western movie “Rust” in 2021, according to court documents.
District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies filed charges following months of speculation as to whether she had evidence that Baldwin showed criminal disregard for safety when a revolver with which he was rehearsing fired a live round that killed Hutchins.
A probable cause statement accompanying the charges names Baldwin as both an actor and producer on the movie and says: “On the day of the shooting alone, evidence shows that no less than a dozen acts, or omissions of recklessness, occurred in the short time prior to lunch and the time of the shooting, and this does not include the reckless handling of the firearm by Baldwin.”
The “30 Rock” actor has denied responsibility for the shooting, saying he cocked the revolver but never pulled the trigger and it was the job of Gutierrez-Reed and other weapons’ professionals to ensure it was unloaded.
Gutierrez-Reed has said she checked the rounds she loaded into the gun were dummies before handing it to first assistant director Dave Halls. Halls handed it to Baldwin, telling him it was a “cold gun,” meaning it did not contain an explosive charge, according to police.
Halls has signed a plea deal for a misdemeanor charge and is expected to cooperate with the prosecution.
On Dec. 13 Halls testified to New Mexico’s worker safety bureau that Gutierrez-Reed handed the gun to Baldwin and that he never declared the Pietta reproduction Colt .45 a “cold gun.”
Industry-wide firearms safety guidelines instruct actors to assume a firearm is loaded with blank ammunition. Live ammunition is strictly forbidden on sets.


French protests against Macron’s pension reform gather momentum

French protests against Macron’s pension reform gather momentum
Updated 01 February 2023

French protests against Macron’s pension reform gather momentum

French protests against Macron’s pension reform gather momentum
  • Two more days of strikes and protests were announced for next week on Tuesday and Saturday

PARIS: Protests against French President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to reform the pension system gathered momentum on Tuesday, with more than 1.27 million people in the street according to the interior ministry.
The number of demonstrators increased slightly compared to a first round of protests on January 19, putting pressure on the government which is struggling to convince voters of the need for the changes.
“The government must hear the massive rejection of this project and withdraw it,” Patricia Drevon from the Force Ouvriere union told a joint press conference with other labor leaders on Tuesday evening.
Two more days of strikes and protests were announced for next week on Tuesday and Saturday.
Macron’s plan to raise the age of retirement from 62 to 64 is a flagship policy of his second term in office which he defended on Monday as “essential” given forecasts for deficits in the coming years.
“The reform of the pension system is causing questioning and doubts. We hear it,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, while insisting on the government’s “responsibility” to carry out the changes.
Unions claimed turnout nation-wide on Tuesday was around 2.5 million, with the hard-left CGT suggesting 2.8 million earlier in the day.
Strikes crippled transport, schools and other public services around the country.
“It’s one of the biggest demonstrations organized in our country in decades,” the head of the moderate CFDT union, Laurent Berger, said as a large crowd dominated by union members, public sector workers and students began marching in Paris.
The last comparable protests were in 2010 — also against pension reform — which reached 1.23 million people at their peak according to official figures, and 3.5 million according to unions.
Despite the prospect of an increasingly bitter and costly stand-off, Macron has shown no sign of stepping back over an issue that has put his credibility on the line only nine months after his re-election.
France currently has the lowest qualifying age for a state pension among major European economies and spends the second-highest amount on pensions relative to the size of its economy compared to other industrialized countries, according to OECD data.
“We need people to join the movement, rolling strikes that have a real impact,” Viviane Rongione, a retired teacher, told AFP as she marched on Tuesday. “Protests every 10 days won’t be enough to make the government back down.”
Tuesday’s demonstrations were peaceful, but minor scuffles broke out in Paris in the afternoon between anarchist and far-left activists and police. Police said they had arrested 18 people.
Large crowds also took to the streets in the rest of the country including in Marseille, Montpellier, Lyon, Nantes and Bordeaux.
“I don’t want to wait until I’m 64. I’m a nursery schoolteacher and it’s impossible to teach until that late in life,” said Sandrine Carre, 52, in the southwestern city of Bordeaux.
“We’re always having to crouch down, and already my knees hurt.”
The most controversial part of the overhaul is hiking the minimum retirement age, but it would also increase the minimum number of years needed to qualify for a full pension.
Opponents say the measures penalize the unqualified or unskilled workers who tend to start their working lives much earlier than graduates.
In the southwestern city of Toulouse, flight simulator repairman Christian, 54, said he could not wait until he was 65 to receive the maximum allowance.
“I’m already doing night shifts and it’s getting tougher,” he said.
Across the country, millions had to adapt their daily routines as workers in transport and education staged walkouts.
The SNCF national railway company said it had canceled 65 percent of high-speed TGV trains and 75 percent of regional trains.
France’s oil industry was mostly paralyzed, with the CGT union at energy giant TotalEnergies reporting between 75 and 100 percent of workers on strike.
Public opinion is likely to be crucial in the coming weeks as the government looks to swiftly pass the legislation in parliament and unions prepare more public defiance.
Sixty-one percent of French people support the protest movement, a poll by the OpinionWay survey group showed on Monday — a rise of three percentage points from January 12.
“The more French people find out about the reform, the less they support it,” said Frederic Dabi, a prominent pollster at the Ifop institute. “This is not good at all for the government.”
Macron’s centrist allies, short of an absolute majority in parliament, will need votes from conservatives to push through the new legislation.


49 boys drown in Pakistan boating accident

49 boys drown in Pakistan boating accident
Updated 01 February 2023

49 boys drown in Pakistan boating accident

49 boys drown in Pakistan boating accident
  • Pakistan’s army shared images showing divers traversing the lake in rubber dinghies, entering the green waters to pull out the bodies of children

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Forty-nine children died when their overloaded boat capsized in northwest Pakistan, police said Tuesday after divers spent three days dragging bodies from freezing waters.
The boys aged between seven and 14 were all students of a madrassa and had been taken for a day trip to the scenic Tanda Dam lake on Sunday.
“The water of the dam was freezing due to cold weather that impeded the rescue mission. But today the divers were able to dive deep to recover the remaining bodies,” said Khateer Ahmad, a senior official with Rescue 1122.
The bodies of a teacher and one skipper were also pulled from the water, he added, bringing the death toll to 51.
Muhammad Umar, who sells tea at a picnic site overlooking the popular weekend tourist destination, said dozens of parents and relatives had gathered over the past few days.
“Every time a body was recovered from the scene, they would jump onto the diver to see if it was their son and every time we would hear them screaming in pain and anguish,” he told AFP over the phone on Tuesday.
“I have not witnessed such scenes in my life, it’s something that can’t be explained in words.”
Tanda Dam lake is about five kilometers (3 miles) away from the madrassa — an Islamic school that offers free religious education — in Kohat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Police spokesperson Fazal Naeem issued the new death toll on Tuesday after the end of the rescue mission. It was confirmed by the military’s media wing.
“The boat was overloaded; its capacity was around 20 to 25 persons,” Naeem told AFP.
He added that five people were rescued including four students and one teacher.
Pakistan’s army shared images showing divers traversing the lake in rubber dinghies, entering the green waters to pull out the bodies of children.
“I got stuck under the boat,” 11-year-old survivor Muhammad Mustafa told AFP from his hospital bed on Sunday.
“My shawl and sweater weighed me down, so I took them off.”
“The water was extremely cold and my body went numb. I thought I was going to pass out when a man on an inflatable tube saved me.”
Drownings are common in Pakistan, when aged and overloaded vessels lose their stability and pitch passengers into the water.
On the same day, at least 41 people were confirmed dead after their bus crashed into a ravine in southwestern Balochistan province.
In July last year, at least 18 women drowned after an overloaded boat carrying about 100 members of the same family capsized during a marriage procession between two villages.