A number of vocational schools in China offers students an extended Our praise while encouraging them to experience nature and pursue love – a move that has been interpreted by some on Chinese social media as an attempt to boost the country’s declining birthrate.

The week-long break is an extension of China’s one-day national holiday for the Qingming Festival, when families clean the tombstones of their deceased relatives and make offerings.

Nine colleges affiliated with Fan Mei Education Group announced this year’s extended break from April 1 to 7, with the theme of enjoying flowers and falling in love, in a Press release March 23.

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Students will need to keep track of their spring break activities with travel diaries, video diaries, and photo assignments that will be displayed when classes resume. Liu Ping, deputy dean of an aviation college in Sichuan, said the holiday will allow students to practice the art of living and studying at the same time.

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A note about the new holiday at one institution included instructions that “pre-holiday guidance” should be provided “around the spring break theme of ‘enjoying flowers and falling in love,’ to lead teachers, students and staff to a meaningful holiday.”

When the Sichuan Daily covered the announcement, Chinese social media users on Weibo were quick to speculate that the move may be related to recent attempts within the country to increase birth rates.

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“Is it to increase fertility?” asked one user.

“Sichuan is really strong at increasing fertility!” wrote another.

Many of those who commented were interested in seeing the new holiday brought to colleges across the country.

China’s birth rate has been falling for years, and last year was the first time in decades that deaths in the country outnumbered births.

China dug itself into a demographic hole largely through its one-child policy introduced between 1980 and 2015. Authorities raised the limit to three in 2021, but even during covid-19 when people stayed at home all the time, couples have been reluctant to have children.

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Young people cite high childcare and education costs, low incomes, a weak social safety net and gender inequality as disincentives.

A large number of proposals on how to increase birth rates were put forward an annual meeting of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) this month, ranging from subsidies for families raising their first child, rather than just their second and third, to expanding free public education and improving access to fertility treatments.

Experts took the large number of proposals as a positive sign that China was addressing its aging and declining demographics with urgency.

China’s birth rate last year fell to 6.77 births per 1,000 people, from 7.52 births in 2021, the lowest on record.

— With files from Reuters

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