Population in Trouble

One Child Policy

Population Growth in China is one of the most serious problems that the Beijing administration needs to tackle. How does the government plan to solve what could be the biggest problem for China’s future?

Since 1978, China has been implementing a one child policy law that officially restricts the number of children married urban couples are allowed to have. The law was created by the Chinese government to alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems in China, and authorities claim that the policy has prevented 400 million births from 1979 to 2011. The prevention of births, so policy makers have claimed, have resulted in less pressure on worldwide food supplies and in less pollution in major Chinese cities.

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Despite the prevention of hundreds of millions of births and the so called success that this law entails, the policy has created various problems for China and perhaps caused irreversible damage to the structure of Population Growth in China: The UN Population Division has projected that by 2050 the elderly population in China (above the age of 60) will be 31% of the total population. By contrast, the proportion of children and young adults (below the age of 20) will only be 21% of the population.

Watch: Population Growth in China

Furthermore, China, like many other Asian countries, has a long tradition of son preference. The commonly accepted explanation for son preference is that sons in rural families are thought to be more helpful in farm work. Both rural and urban populations have economic and traditional incentives, including widespread remnants of Confucianism, to prefer sons over daughters. Sons are preferred as they provide the primary financial support for the parents in their retirement, and a son’s parents are typically better cared for than his wife’s. In addition, Chinese traditionally hold that daughters, on their marriage, become primarily a part of the groom’s family.

Confucian tradition and family preferences, combined with the one child policy, have created an acute female shortage in China: the male/female ratio is the highest in the world and stands on 1.13 male /1 female. According to a report by the State Population and Family Planning Commission, in 2020, there will be 30 million more men than women in China; A situation that may lead to social instability.

The problems that the Population Growth in China and the one child policy create (such as a shrinking labor force or larger reliance on government funds) are good reasons for policy makers to be concerned about the future, and they have begun to question the necessity of the one child policy. Wang Yuqing (王玉庆), the deputy director of the CPPCC’s Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment, revealed to local media last month that the department in charge of enforcing the current policy is considering relaxing current rules towards the end of the 12th five year plan (from this year through to the end of 2015).

According to Wang, policy makers are considering whether to make changes to the policy so that families will be able to have a second child, and experts are currently exploring the possibilities of a “two-child policy”. Mr. Wang argued that in a society where children are expected to take care of their elders (based on Confucian tradition), the one-child policy has caused many social problems as the older generation now lacks a sense of social security. Mr. Wang also said that changes to this policy would not lead to a population explosion and that it would also help to relieve concerns about a “greying China.”

On one hand, China is facing the burden of aging population and the decline of its workforce; In order to maintain stable growth and to correct its gender imbalance, China needs to loosen its one-child policy. On the other hand, loosening the one child policy might create more pollution and food shortages. What do you think? Is Population Growth in China a problem?

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About the Author

Lior Paritzky is the Editor in Chief and Manager of Laowaiblog, an internet platform that provides opinion and views about social phenomena in modern China. Look for Lior on Twitter: Liorpari