While convincing Chinese women－especially career women－to have a second child is challenging, persuading one to have a third is virtually certain to be met with a cold shoulder.
A recent survey of more than 1,000 women over 18 in Shanghai found that for 75 percent of them having a third child is simply "out of the question".
Conducted by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Social Science, the survey was designed to get a glimpse of the concerns of women in the city on personal development, family and social life. Just 1.3 percent of interviewees said they already had three children, the survey found; 2.4 percent said they would like to have a third child if policy allowed; and 21.3 percent were undecided.
"Career or life? This has become a difficult question for most parents born in the 1980s when it comes to the decision about having another child," said Zheng Zhenzhen, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Population and Labor Economics, who specializes in child research in China.
According to Zheng, parents born in the 1980s and 1990s have the most potential for having a second child, since many born in the 1960s and 1970s, despite their willingness, have to give up the idea because of age.
However, it's a difficult decision for parents born in the 1980s because most of them have reached their busiest life stage－being breadwinners and parents of school-age children and having elderly parents.
The surveys indicated that society has yet to nurture an environment conducive to raising more children, Zheng said.
This is especially true when it comes to women, according to He Fang, an associate research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Social Science.
"While today's women are more educated and have career development prospects that are comparable or similar to those of their male counterparts, our social expectations of their family role as caregivers for children has remained the same as it was decades ago when women's duties were mainly confined to the home," He said.
Chinese parents have been lukewarm about the universal second-child policy, which was introduced in 2016 to help reverse the decline in the country's working-age population.
However, the number of newborns in 2017 dropped by 630,000 from the previous year, which indicates that the second-child policy did not have the expected impact.
This has resulted in growing expectations that the country might soon loosen its family-planning policy again.
However, some argue that if the universal second-child policy has failed to boost public morale to produce more children, a third-child policy won't be a magic solution.
Li Mengqian, 27, mother of a 4-year-old, said making a decision on whether to have a second child is already difficult, let alone thinking about a third.
"I don't want to be replaced because of pregnancy while I have a satisfying job," Li said. "Also, raising a child is simply too costly."
"Two kids are my limit," Li said.