Controversial one-child policy lifted after 35 years
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
As an attempt to create a stable workforce in the future, the Communist Party of China will loosen its strict one-child policy beginning in March to now allow families to have two children. The decision was made in hopes that couples will have more children who can grow up to better support China’s large aging population.
For the last 35 years, families in urban areas were only allowed to have one child in order to slow the booming population of over one billion people. Families in rural areas were sometimes allowed to bear two children.
The one-child policy has continued to be controversial over the span of its existence, and many argue that it has resulted in several problems for the economy and society.
Socially, the one-child policy has resulted in a mismatch of gender demographics. According to the Globe and Mail, there are 12 boys for every 10 girls in the under-15 age demographic, presumably a result of sex-selected abortions and female infanticide.
Families have often lived in fear of the government simply for wanting to have more children. Since the one-child policy was put into place, 336 million Chinese women have had abortions, and many of them, if not a majority, were forced. Tens of millions of women have been sterilized by the government.
Millions of Chinese residents were born and continue to live without citizenship, simply due to being second or third children of poor families who could not afford to pay the fines associated with having more than one child. These people cannot officially work or seek out any civic service.
Even with the reversal of the policy, China will still eventually face the economic hardships that will come from a falling population. By allowing two children per family, that decline will start in 2034, instead of the previously projected 2029 with the one-child policy. It is problematic because there will simply not be enough workers to supply all of China and support the retired population. The current fertility rate in China is 1.7, where at least 2.1 is needed to maintain the population.
“They should actually have abolished this long ago,” Cai Yong, a population expert working at the University of North Carolina, said to the Globe and Mail. “China missed its best opportunity to relax the policy when people were still willing to have a second or even third child.”
Yong predicts that there will be a slight baby boom over the next few years, but the boom will quickly relax and fertility rates will continue at their current rate.