How Chinese New Year affects the birth rate

2017's year of the Rooster may mean a quiet 12 months for China's maternity wards.

January 25, 2017

When it comes to holidays, they don’t get much bigger than Chinese New Year. According to China's government statistics, during 2015'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.

This year’s celebration begins on 28 January lasting for around two weeks until Lantern Festival on 12 February, when red Chinese lanterns are released into the sky. More importantly though, at least in popular culture, the New Year brings with it a new animal – the Rooster.

The Chinese zodiac is split into 12 sections (or houses), each of which is represented by a different animal. 2016 has been the year of the Monkey. 

While to most people outside of 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, so raise a glass if you became a father in the past 12 months. However, those born in a Rooster year are said to lack creativity, have arrogant tendencies and be generally unlucky in life, from careers to health and love. Not great qualities to wish on your newborn child.

But it's not all doom and gloom if you're expecting in 2017, because it isn’t the year of just any old Rooster. More specifically, it’s a rare year for the Fire Rooster. In Chinese astrology, each zodiac year is associated with an element as well as an animal, but element-sign combinations only occur every 60 years.

The last Fire Rooster year was 1957, and while the standard Rooster isn’t that appealing, those born under its fiery brother are believed to be trustworthy, loyal and responsible. Their lucky numbers are five, seven and eight, and their lucky colours are yellow, brown and gold. 

You might think that's all a bit irrelevant, but these ancient beliefs have a tangible effect on China’s population. For example the year of the Dragon, considered to be the most auspicious year in the zodiac, sees birth rates increase markedly. The last Dragon year of 2012 saw a jump in Chinese births of two per cent.

China’s birth rate last year was the highest this century, with a rise of 7.9 per cent. While a small margin of that could be due to the popular Monkey, largely it was due to China finally lifting its one-child policy at the start of the year. About 45 per cent of babies were born to families that already had one child. 

So will 2017’s year of the Fire Rooster be popular for Chinese parents-to-be? Probably not. Coming off the back of the Monkey and with 2018 being the year of the Dog, another popular zodiac animal that is believed to mean loyalty, honesty and kindness, 2017 may be a quiet year for China's birth rate. There is also a new two-child policy in place.

For those who do become parents in the next 12 months, it’s recommended that Fire Rooster children avoid the colour red and the numbers one, three and nine. Or if it’s easier, you could just wait until 2018 for that loyal, honest and amiable dog child.

Famous Fire Roosters

  • Martin Luther King
  • Stephen Fry
  • Hans Zimmer
  • Bob Marley
  • Jennifer Aniston
  • Donny Osmond