China Lifts The One-Child Policy For Good

China Lifts The One-Child Policy For Good
Posters advocating the one child policy when it was first implemented. (courtesy of telegraph.co.uk)
Poster advocating the one child policy when it was first implemented. (courtesy of telegraph.co.uk)

This past Thursday, the Chinese government announced its intention to end the notorious One-Child Policy to resolve its aging population problem [1].

The policy was first introduced in 1979 to curb the growth of China’s already enormous population. Estimated to have prevented around 400 million births, it has long been considered problematic for both its unforeseen impacts on China’s demographics and its stringent implementation [2]. Couples in violation of the policy, for example, faced at least a fine and at most forced abortions or dismissal from their occupations. To avoid these consequences, couples turned to sterilizations, abortions, infanticide [3].

In addition, the policy created a demographic crisis. Two major trends have been identified here: a swelling population of aging people, and a skewed male to female ratio. Currently, around 30% of China’s population is over 50 years old, meaning that many more people will be aging out of the workforce than entering in the coming years [4]. This economic pressure is augmented by the fact that one child must now support a large network of retired parents and grandparents. The other issue, a gender birth ratio of around 118 boys to 100 girls, stems from the Chinese’s predilection for males. Many couples abort or abandon female infants because they want a male child who can pass down the family name. Beyond the threat to life, the gender imbalance has broken apart the family unit and has even increased sexual violence and trafficking, as millions of men were no longer be able to find partners [5].

As the policy changes to combat these issues, many experts warn that these trends may not be so easily reversed. Costs of raising children are high, especially in the rapidly-urbanizing areas of China. A survey of women in Jiangsu province found that 55% of women wanted only one child even after the policies changed [6]. However, long-term effects of this change remain to be seen.

by Katherine Xiong ’19