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Baby boom expected in Year of the Monkey

By Xinhua/China Daily News

HANGZHOU – Chinese traditionally believed babies born in the Year of Monkey to be smart and confident, due to their love of the animal because it is cute and resembles humans in many ways.

“In China, people are inclined to have children in auspicious years, such as the year of dragon, horse, and monkey of course. The phenomenon is even more obvious in north China,” said Zhai Zhenwu, president of the School of Sociology and Population Studies under the Renmin University of China in Beijing.

A nurse takes care of a newborn baby in a hospital in Zaozhuang, East China's Shandong province. Photo courtesy of difc.cn

A nurse takes care of a newborn baby in a hospital in Zaozhuang, East China’s Shandong province. Photo courtesy of difc.cn

Spring Festival, which falls on Feb. 8 this year, marks the beginning of the Year of Monkey, according to the Chinese zodiac that assigns one of the 12 animals to each year. The monkey ranks the ninth in the cycle, proceeded by the sheep and followed by the rooster.

“Especially after the Year of the Sheep; an animal believed by many means a sad life to babies born in the year,” said Zhai.”

Even more favorable for parents, both new and old, China dropped its one-child policy last year and allows each family to have two children.

“My wife and I hesitated at the beginning, but we soon made up our mind to have a second child as many friends have begun raising their second,” said Zhang Yu who is in his 40s and working in a financial institution in Shanghai.

“Bachelors are normally nagged to get married by their parents during Spring Festival. If you are married, parents will continue to nag you to have children,” said Chen Yu, a resident from Hangzhou City.

According to Chinese family planning authorities, the two-child policy will add an estimated 3 million babies annually for a total of 17.5 to 21 million newborns each year in the next five years.

Beds are being booked out in most maternity hospitals and confinement nursing centers in many Chinese cities. In Jiaxing City, 100 kilometers from Shanghai, hospital beds for expectant mothers have run out for the first half of the new year.

Chinese tradition requires mothers to rest for at least a month after delivery. Confinement nursing centers in Jiaxing have already fallen behind demand.

“Some of our best nursing services charge as much as 24,000 yuan (3,600 U.S. dollars) for one month, but it is still difficult to secure a place,” said a new father Chen in Jiaxing.

The demand for maternity nurses, who take care of the mother and new-born, is also on the rise. “I have to make reservations several months before the expected date of delivery for a professional matron,” said a mother living in Hangzhou.

“And be prepared to pay huge,” Chen said.

Harmonicare Medical Group owns 11 women and children hospitals across China. The group is currently upgrading its institutions in Beijing and central China’s Wuhan City by adding more beds and recruiting more medical staff, as it expects the baby boom in the Year of the Monkey.

Considering the strong consumption of parents, economic institutions and retailers are optimistic about industries related to infants and children, such as baby formula, diapers, and skin care products.

Industry analysts estimated a total of 160 billion yuan of consumption dividends from the baby boom. Real estate market in first-tier cities, for example, is expected to experience a short prosperous period.

“The new-born population will fuel consumption, especially in cultural and service industries that deal with young customers,” said Li Shaojun, chief strategist of Minsheng Securities.