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China's 2019 birthrate lowest in 70 years of communist rule – Al Jazeera English

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China‘s birthrate dropped last year to its lowest level since the formation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, adding to concerns of a long-term challenge for the government, as the ageing society and shrinking workforce pile pressure on a slowing economy.

To avoid a demographic crisis, the Communist government abolished the one-child policy in 2015 to allow people to have two children, but the change has not resulted in an increase in pregnancies.

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In 2019, the birthrate stood at 10.48 per 1,000 people, down slightly from the year before, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released on Friday.

The number of births has now fallen for three consecutive years. Still, there were 14.65 million babies born in 2019.

Many young couples in China are reluctant to have children because they cannot afford to pay for healthcare and education alongside expensive housing

Meanwhile, divorce rates are hitting records. In the first three quarters of 2019, about 3.1 million couples filed for divorce, compared with 7.1 million couples getting married, according to data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Lowest number of births since 1961

He Yafu, an independent demographer based in southern Guangdong province, said the total number of births in 2019 was the lowest since 1961, the last year of a famine that left tens of millions dead. He said there were approximately 11.8 million births that year.

US-based academic Yi Fuxian, senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told the AFP news agency that even though China has abolished its one-child policy, there has been a shift in the mindset of the population, with people now used to smaller families.

According to official figures, China’s population stood at 1.4 billion by the end of 2019, increasing by 4.67 million from the year before.

But Fuxian believes that China’s population is over-estimated, and according to his work, the real population “began to decline in 2018”.

While China’s limit on family sizes could be removed altogether eventually, the demographer said citizens are still being punished for having three children, even though some areas have reduced punitive measures.

However, China has recently signalled that it might end limits on family size altogether. A draft of the new Civil Code, due to be introduced at the annual session of the rubber-stamp parliament in March, omits all mention of “family planning”.

‘Slow, long-term problem’ 

The one-child policy was introduced by former leader Deng Xiaoping to curb population growth and promote economic development, with exceptions for rural families whose first-born was a female, and for ethnic minorities.

The measure was mainly enforced through fines but was also notorious for forced abortions and sterilisations.

The result was dramatic: Fertility rates dropped from 5.9 births per woman in 1970 to about 1.6 in the late 1990s. The rate was below the level needed to replace the population – 2.1 births per woman.

The stagnated birthrate could pose a problem for the economy in the future, as the country’s workforce continued to shrink last year.

The NBS said 896.4 million people were of working age, between 16 and 59, in 2019, a drop from the 897.3 million in 2018.

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This marks the eighth consecutive year of decline. The workforce is expected to decline by as much as 23 percent by 2050.

“The demographic problem is a slow, long-term one,” He told AFP.

China’s economy grew by 6.1 percent in 2019, its slowest pace since 1990 as it was hit by weaker demand and a bruising trade war with the United States.

“Because China’s education levels have been going up, in the short term, the population issue should not impact growth too much,” He told the news agency. 

“But in the long run, if the trend continues, it would pose a huge drag on economic growth.”

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Addictions experts say 24-hour slot machines in Alberta is a terrible idea – Calgary Herald

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The renovated Starlight Casino in West Edmonton Mall incorporates natural light at some of the slot machine stations. The casino will have its grand opening on September 26, 2018.


Larry Wong / POSTMEDIA

Gaming addiction experts say a recent decision by Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) to allow casinos to run 24-hour slot machines is “the wrong direction” for those struggling with gambling addictions in the province.

AGLC spokeswoman Heather Holmen said Friday that casinos will be able to apply to expand their hours to allow for the operation of slot machines 24 hours per day, following recent regulation changes by the agency.

“We heard from numerous casino operators who asked AGLC to approve this option to support their business,” said Holmen in an email to Postmedia, noting the change is fully optional and there is no timeline for when it will be implemented.

Currently, slots can operate between 10 a.m. and 3 a.m. Holmen said there are a handful of casinos open 24 hours a day for 24-hour poker in the province, and liquor sales regulations will continue to permit sales between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m. and consumption until 3 a.m.


U of C professor David Hodgins is beginning a study of online treatments for gambling addictions, in Calgary on January 3, 2013.

Christina Ryan, Calgary Herald CALGARY, AB.:JANUARY 3, 2013 —

But an expert in the psychology of gambling addictions says closure hours for slots are an important way to break the cycle of gambling when someone is “in the zone” and their control over their play is impaired.

“People really get quite immersed while they’re playing,” said David Hodgins, a psychology professor at the University of Calgary. “To move in the direction of making (slots) 24-hours is really going in the opposite direction than we would recommend in terms of minimizing the potential harms.”

Hodgins said the move is particularly concerning because slots “tend to be the most problematic” form of gambling because they are easily accessible, start with small wins or losses, and give nearly instant results.

“We know that making gambling more accessible means more people will get into problems,” he said.

Ray Reshke, executive director of the Problem Gambling Resources Network (PGRN), expressed concern the move could open the door for further expansion of gambling hours in other areas.

“Casinos will see this as a precedent,” he said in an interview Friday, calling slots the “crack cocaine of gambling.”

“People are going to gamble, but at some point, when do you shut down that opportunity to gamble?” Reshke said, adding the PGRN had not been aware of the change.

“AGLC is committed to finding ways to support player wellness while providing Albertans with gaming entertainment options,” said Holmen.

mwyton@postmedia.com

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‘We just need to get on with it’: Surrey councillor puts ride-hailing on agenda – CityNews Vancouver

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SURREY (NEWS 1130) — The controversy over ride-hailing in the city of Surrey went unaddressed in council chambers Monday but one councillor plans to confront the issue at the next meeting.

Coun. Linda Annis says she hopes Surrey residents will be able to book an Uber or Lyft in the city soon after her motion comes to council on Feb. 10.

“The whole purpose of my notice of motion was to get the city to deal with ride-hailing sooner as opposed to later. The residents of Surrey have been waiting for ride-hailing for quite some time now. Quite honestly, I’m embarrassed by the fact that Vancouver is ready to go and Surrey is not,” she says.

Uber and Lyft were approved to operate on the Lower Mainland Thursday and the city of Vancouver approved business licenses the same day. Drivers hit the road Friday morning.

Annis says she will be asking city staff to move forward with work on regional licensing — allowing ride-hailing operators to operate across Metro Vancouver — which is the approach approved by all Metro Vancouver mayors except Surrey’s. She will also be asking for staff to look at how it can be made easier for Surrey taxi drivers to cross municipal boundaries.

“We should have ride-sharing in Surrey now. We shouldn’t be delaying it. People have been waiting for it and asking for it for a long period of time. I’m not hearing any negativity about it. We just need to get on with it and make it happen now.”

Mayor Doug McCallum has been steadfast in his opposition to ride-hailing, saying operators have an unfair advantage over taxi drivers. Over the weekend, city bylaw officers issued warnings to drivers picking up in the city. In a news conference Monday he reiterated his promise to start issuing $500 fines to Uber drivers in the city and to continue to fine the company $500 per day.

“The mayor has to take a sober second thought. We were elected by the residents of Surrey. The residents of Surrey are asking for ride-hailing. We need to not represent special interest groups we need to move on with it and let the market dictate what sorts of services the residents will use,” Annis says.

“This is a provincial decision around ride-hailing. the mayor can protest as he wishes but in the end of the day Surrey must comply with the provincial legislation and allow ride-hailing in Surrey.”

RELATED: Surrey mayor promises $500 fines for Uber drivers picking up in city

A statement released by B.C.’s Minister of Transportation Monday says municipalities can set requirements for business licences for ride-hailing companies, but can’t stop their operations.

“Provincial law is clear, no municipality has the authority to block the operation of ride-hailing services,” it reads. “The absence of a bylaw or business licence in specific municipalities related to ride-hailing is not grounds for refusal of the service.”

Annis says when she travels to other cities she uses ride-hailing, and argues people need more options.

“Transportation in Surrey is very difficult. We don’t have enough taxis, we don’t have enough buses. Quite frankly, we need to have all options available to us and I think ride-hailing is an absolutely perfect one to ensure that our residents remain safe.”

With files from Martin MacMahon

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Surrey mayor to Uber drivers: We will fine you – Vancouver Sun

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Mayor Doug McCallum defended the decision to fight ride-hailing, saying the city has a right to enforce its bylaws.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said bylaw officers will be stepping up enforcement against ride-hailing drivers picking up passengers in his city, pitting him against provincial regulations, Uber and some members of his own council.

McCallum told reporters that bylaw officers hailed rides through the Uber app and gave 18 warning notices to drivers on the weekend because the company does not have a business licence. Uber, the company, was issued two $500 tickets — one for each day.

He said that the grace period is over and drivers will be fined if they are caught picking up passengers in Surrey. Daily fines will also continue to be levied against Uber.

McCallum said Monday that he supports ride-hailing, but it’s a service he doesn’t want in Surrey until there is parity between the rules governing ride-hailing and taxi companies. He defended the city’s right to enforce its bylaws how it sees fit.

“Ride-hailing, in a regulated industry, has a very unfair advantage. Government has a role to play and I would argue has a responsibility to ensure there is fair competition between the taxi service industry and the ride-hailing components,” McCallum told reporters.

The city has not developed a business licence specific to ride-hailing, like the ones in Vancouver, Burnaby, Delta, Richmond and the Tri-Cities.

According to the B.C. Ministry of Transportation, a municipality can set requirements for business licences for ride-hail operators, but doesn’t have the authority to block the operation of ride-hailing services.

“The absence of a bylaw or business licence in specific municipalities related to ride-hailing is not grounds for refusal of the service,” the ministry said in an emailed statement. The ministry did not say what would happen if a municipality did stand in the way of ride-hailing companies operating in their jurisdiction.

McCallum said Uber is welcome to apply for a business licence like the one that taxi companies must obtain. Taxi companies pay $161.75 a year for a Surrey business licence, plus $441.50 for each taxi. He did not say how long it would take to get such a licence.

McCallum said when it comes to the city developing its own business licence, they need to wait and see what happens regionally. He said council has not had the opportunity to talk about ride-hailing because they had no notice that operating licences would be issued.

At least three councillors, none of whom are part of McCallum’s majority Safe Surrey Coalition, disagreed with the city’s tactic.

Coun. Brenda Locke said she was “blindsided” by what happened over the weekend.

“I think it’s appalling and not in keeping with the spirit of whatever this legislation is going to be moving forward by the province,” Locke said. “I don’t know why Surrey would choose to be so aggressive about it at this time. We know we’re moving into a ride-sharing world and that’s a good thing for Surrey.”

Locke has asked city staff if a legal opinion was sought before bylaw staff took action against Uber, but has not received a response.

Two Vancouver lawyers agreed that the bylaw officers’ actions in this case don’t constitute entrapment, unless maybe the driver was summoned from another municipality. Dean Davison, whose firm specializes in municipal law, said the city is breaching a section of the Community Charter that states a provision of a municipal bylaw has no effect if it is inconsistent with a provincial enactment.

Coun. Jack Hundial took an Uber on Saturday from his home in Newton to city hall. He said warning or ticketing drivers will discourage them from working in the city, which is bad for those trying to earn a buck and for residents who want to use the service.

Hundial said council was supposed to receive a report about ride-hailing last fall, but the issue has not been raised with council since.

“We’ve yet to see it. This hasn’t really come before council as a discussion point yet,” said Hundial.

Coun. Linda Annis called on the mayor and city staff to ensure ride-hailing is available in the city.

“We’ve all waited long enough, it’s time to get on with it,” Annis said in a news release. “The monopoly of the tax owners is over and Surrey residents should have the same access to Uber and Lyft as Vancouverites. I want assurances from the mayor and our city staff that there will be no more obstacles and that our residents can access this new transportation option immediately. I’m hoping the mayor will stand up for 550,000 Surrey residents, rather than a handful of taxi company owners who have had a monopoly for decades.”

Annis and others support a regional ride-hailing business licence, which is being developed by TransLink at the behest of the Mayors’ Council. It’s expected to be drafted within the next week, at which time it will go to Metro Vancouver municipal councils for consideration. Participation in the regional licence will be voluntary.

McCallum voted against such a licence, although he seemed to go back on that position on Monday and claimed he is involved in coming up with a regional model.

According to Michael van Hemmen, Uber’s head of Western Canada, the company and its drivers have the required approvals from the province and the Passenger Transportation Board to operate in Metro Vancouver.

“We do not believe there is any legal basis for drivers to be fined by the City of Surrey,” he said in an emailed statement.

The company did not say, when asked, who would be responsible for paying — the company or the driver — if a fine was levied.

jensaltman@postmedia.com

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