How Chinese New Year affects the birthrate

2016 and the Year of the Monkey is likely to see a mini baby boom in China.

Peter Iantorno January 19, 2016

When it comes to holidays, they don’t get much bigger than Chinese New Year.

According to Chinese government statistics, during last year’s celebrations, the equivalent of $100 billion was spent on retail and restaurants, while the nation’s favourite New Year’s Eve TV programme attracted close to 800 million viewers.

Of course, any occasion that involves pretty much everyone in the world’s most populous country is bound to be a big one, but even in the massive scope of Chinese events, New Year – also called Spring Festival – is without doubt the biggest and most important.

This year’s celebration will take place on February 8, and as well as ushering in a new year for those who follow the lunar calendar (Chinese Year 4,713, for those who are counting), more importantly, the new year brings with it a new animal.

The Chinese zodiac is split into 12 sections (or houses), each of which is represented by a different animal. The current year is the Year of the Goat (also often referred to as Sheep or Ram), the year commencing February 8 will be the Year of the Monkey and the one after that will be the Year of the Rooster.

While to most people outside China these animal signs are largely irrelevant, for many Chinese both inside the country and abroad, the year a person is born – and therefore their corresponding animal sign – is an incredibly important indication of how they are perceived 

According to Chinese astrology, the particular year a person is born dictates their personality. Although the ancient study also places relevance on the month, day and even the time of a person’s birth, the animal year is commonly used as shorthand to indicate the kind of person they are.

For instance, those born in the Year of the Monkey are said to be clever, quick-witted and innovative – clearly a great year to be born. However, those born in the current Year of the Goat are said to be shy, passive and indecisive – not great qualities to wish on your newborn child.

And these beliefs have a tangible effect on the country’s population. For example, during the Year of the Dragon – considered to be the most auspicious year in the zodiac – birth rates increase markedly. The last dragon year (2012) saw a jump of around 2 per cent in births in China.

While the upcoming Year of the Monkey isn’t thought the be quite as auspicious as the Dragon, the fact that it is sandwiched between the Goat and the equally unappealing Rooster (people born in Rooster years are said to lack creativity and have arrogant tendencies), means many couples will see this year as the ideal time to start a family.

The expected spike in births will also be helped by the commencement of the Chinese government’s two-child policy, which came into effect on January 1, 2016, and sees the earlier strict one-child law relaxed.

While the country's economy as a whole is struggling, with growth at its lowest for 25 years and the stock market regularly suffering, Chinese baby-related products are on the up. So, if you’re looking to invest in 2016, a Chinese nappy factory is very much where the smart money is.