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BEIJING, China, 16 January 2019 – China is already accelerating efforts in response to the rapid ageing and shrinking labour force, yet it needs to do more to support the childbearing aspirations and reproductive well-being of individuals and couples, according to a policy dialogue co-hosted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Finnish Embassy in Beijing.

The dialogue is part of the state visit of Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and his delegation to China from 13 to 16 January, during which President Xi Jinping and President Niinistö officially opened the China-Finland Year of Winter Sports on 14 January. Anne Mari Virolainen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland is member of President Niinistö’s delegation.

During the dialogue, the Finnish Minister Virolainen gave a keynote speech and highlighted the role of gender equality as a success factor of societies and the need to support sexual and reproductive health and rights that are at the heart of enhancing the status and rights of women and girls.

“Gender equality is a prerequisite for sustainable development and for implementing the 2030 Agenda. It is not only a right thing to do, it is also a smart thing to do, since it increases economic growth,” said Minister Virolainen.

Finland has a long tradition in promoting gender equality and women’s rights. The country’s policies and public services have been well known in improving access for women and girls to inclusive, quality education; expanded basic health and social services, including for sexual and reproductive health; and services to fight violence and abuse.

The panel at the dialogue featured Han Junli, Chief of Division of Policy Coordination, Department of Population Monitoring and Family Development of China National Health Commission, Liu Hongyan, Deputy Director-General of China Population and Development Research Centre, Zheng Zhenzhen, Researcher of Institute of Population and Labor Economics of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, He Chunhong, Director of Department of International Cooperation of China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Medicines and Health Products, Feng Yuan, Co-founder of Beijing Equality NGO (Weiping), as well as the Finnish Minister Anne Mari Virolainen.

The panel focused on questions relevant to China’s fertility and ageing issues, the socio-economic factors affecting women and couples’ choices to have children, and public-private cooperation to support women’s fertility decisions.

It highlighted the critical importance of pursuing the full realization of reproductive rights in China within the country’s responses to the rapid ageing of its population. Measures should be taken to support women and younger generations who choose to have more children to do so – advancing gender equality and expanding access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, decent work, enhanced maternity and paternity benefits, affordable housing, quality childcare, among other priorities.

"Effectively responding to rapid ageing in China demands a comprehensive approach that prioritizes full respect and support for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and young people," said Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi, UNFPA Representative in China.

Around 70 people from government and non-governmental organizations, women’s organizations, research institutes, academia, UN agencies and diplomatic missions participated in the event.