Authorities in China are struggling to get young, career-orientated "tiger mums" to take advantage of the recent relaxation in the country's infamous one-child policy, figures have shown.

Fears that a looming demographic timebomb will mean China "gets old before it gets rich" led Communist Party chiefs to launch a propaganda blitz urging prospective mothers to "seize the time and conceive".

But it is a call only older women are hearing as they race to fulfil their lost dreams of a larger family they were denied by the one-child policy introduced in 1979 and enforced with ruthless campaigns of forced abortions and sterilisations.

China had expected to see an extra three million births after scrapping the policy exactly a year ago as it sought to boost its birthrate to 1.8 babies per woman by 2021.


However, figures showed only one million more babies were born in 2016 than 2015.

In a tweet last month Xinhua, the state news agency, said: "China tells child-bearing women to seize the time and conceive children given a decline of working-age population".

Li Jianmin, professor of population studies at Nankai University in Tianjin, said: "The new family planning laws mainly apply to couples in urban areas, where the lifestyles of younger people and huge pressures make them reluctant to have second children."

Older women, however, have fuelled a surge in demand for IVF treatments and post-natal care. A specialist from the Beijing Perfect Family Hospital said: "Ever since China eased its family planning policies, we have seen increasing number of women of advanced ages from all over the country come to our hospital to seek help."

One of the hospital's patients was aged 53, said the doctor and elsewhere in China women as old as 61 are reported to have had children using IVF.

Ren Yingchun, president of the Better Care Centre in Beijing, which offers post-natal care, said the facility has seen an increase in second child mothers.

Among them is 41-year-old Cai Suhua who recently gave birth to a baby girl, Dudu, 16 years after she had her first child. "I feel safe and sound here as there are nurses who can help me," said Cai, who paid almost 240,000 yuan ($50,000) for 42 days care at the centre.

A "baby boom may be just around the corner in China", the Communist Party newspaper the People's Daily said optimistically in August.

Current expectations are much lower. China had just over one billion people of working age in 2015, which is predicted to decline to 958 million by 2030 and 827 million by 2050.

Li said research pointed to China's birth rate stabilising at around 1.6 to 1.7, even with no restrictions on the number of children.

"This is a lower rate than in Western countries, which means even less babies will be born in China than abroad," he said. "It is all about Chinese women now having the same lifestyle as those in the West."