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Year of the Dragon and Its Impact in the US

2012, the year of the Dragon is considered to be very auspicious for Chinese parents. Chinese Officials expect a significant rise in the number of babies born this year. But, many expectant mothers are moving to Hong Kong to give birth, to ensure their children get access to the country’s more modern schools and health care facilities. Many others are increasingly turning their eyes to the US. Per a report in the Chinese-language World Journal, “birthing centers” are on the rise cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco offering packages that include travel and accommodation. The cost ranges anywhere between $20,000 and $30,000.

There is an instance where a two-months pregnant lady who had planned to return home recently applied for an OPT, that allows to remain in the country, thereby delivering the baby in the US. Birthing centers started in the US in the 1970s as an another option to the increasingly high-tech maternity wards found at most hospitals. In March last year, The Los Angeles Times reported on the closure of many such centers in Southern California, indicating in the report as a “hub” of birthing tourism. Rather than winding up, those operators just stopped housing clients. They turned into pseudo-travel agents and offered hotel bookings and earned a commission on the hourly wages paid to nannies hired through them.

The Chinese strongly believe that “Dragon babies” will have lifelong good fortune. The industry has indeed gotten a boost because of this belief. Per the Chinese zodiac, the dragon is a symbol of royalty and is largely seen as the harbinger of wealth, wisdom, courage and power. Chinese officials are of the belief that the number of births this year will climb by 5 percent from 2011, when the rate stood at just over 12 births per 1000 people. Giving birth outside the mainland also allows mothers pregnant with a second or third child, thereby avoiding the One Child Policy restriction. Such factors have led the authorities in Hong Kong to consider drawing down the quota on non-resident births.

There are some persons who do not have the residential permit known in Chinese as a “hukou,” without which his/her child will not be permitted to enroll in the local public school system. The international schools in Beijing offers better quality and cheaper tuition than private schools. But students enrolled in international school should have a foreign passport. That is one reason why many look out for birthing centers in the US. They select the US for better educational opportunities for their kids.

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