News / Asia

In China, Signs One-Child Policy May be Coming to an End

A child walks on a swinging bridge at a kindergarten in Wuhan, Hubei province, December 3, 2012.
A child walks on a swinging bridge at a kindergarten in Wuhan, Hubei province, December 3, 2012.
Reuters
China could be considering relaxing its harsh one-child policy because of women like Hu Yanqin, who lives in a village at the edge of the Gobi desert.

When Hu married a construction worker seven years ago, she knew she was going to have only one child, although the area where she lives, the Jiuquan region in northwestern Gansu province, is one of the rare places in China where those living in rural areas have been free to have two children since 1985.

"Those people with two children are those who are better off,'' said Hu, 32, dropping her six-year-old son off at kindergarten. "The majority of people in my village only have one child.''

Advocates of reforming China's one-child policy use Hu and millions like her as evidence that relaxing the law will not lead to a surge of births in the world's most populous nation.

Jiuquan has a birth rate of 8 to 9 per 1,000 people, lower than the national average of about 12 births per 1,000 people.

The policy, implemented since 1980 alongside reforms that have led to rapid economic expansion, is increasingly being seen as an impediment to growth and the harbinger of social problems.

The country's labour force, at about 930 million, will start declining in 2025 at a rate of about 10 million a year, projections show. Meanwhile, China's elderly population will hit 360 million by 2030, from about 200 million in 2013.

"If this goes on, there will be no taxpayers, no workers and no caregivers for the elderly,'' said Gu Baochang, a demography professor at Renmin University.

China's top statistician, Ma Jiantang, said last Friday that the country should look into ``an appropriate and scientific family planning policy'' after data showed that the country's working-age population, aged 15 to 59, fell for the first time.

Economists say the policy is also responsible for China's high savings rate. A single child often must take care of two - and four in the case of married couples - retired parents, increasing the likelihood that working adults will save money for their old age rather than spend.

That has delayed the "rebalancing'' of Beijing's economy toward more consumption, a step economists believe China needs to take to keep its growth going.

Expectations that Beijing will ease the restrictions, by gradually allowing couples to have two children, have been building since outgoing President Hu Jintao conspicuously dropped the phrase ``maintain a low birth rate'' in a work report to a Communist Party congress in November.

It was the first time in a decade that a major speech by a top leader had omitted such a reference and could signal the new government led by Xi Jinping is leaning toward reform.

"I think that the 18th Party Congress report indicates that, and this is my personal interpretation, the one-child policy is going to be adjusted,'' said Ji Baocheng, a delegate to China's rubber stamp parliament who advocates change in the policy.

Brutal

The one-child policy covers 63 per cent of the country's population and Beijing says it has averted 400 million births since 1980.

Its enforcement can be brutal. Couples who flout family planning laws are, at minimum, fined, some lose their jobs, and in some cases mothers are forced to abort their babies or be sterilized.

Last summer, a woman who was seven months pregnant was forced to have an abortion, triggering outrage on China's Internet and international condemnation.

But evidence has been mounting for years that the policy may be unnecessary to control population growth.

In 2008, Renmin University's Gu and the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy published a study on two-child policy programs in four regions, home to about 8 million people. They concluded that the high cost of having children is enough to hold down birthrates, but the freedom to have a second child results in a less skewed gender disparity.

The next year, sources told Reuters, the National Population and Family Planning Commission decided, as a first step, to expand pilot programs to relax the policy in four to five other regions.

The proposal was dropped for lack of a consensus among the leadership, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

The new leadership in Beijing, which assumes power formally in March, is likely to make another run at change, reform advocates believe.

"The adjustment of the policy is certain, it's only a question of time,'' said a recently retired official from the family planning commission, who maintains close ties with the agency.

Boys and Girls

A skewed gender ratio is another unwelcome effect of the one-child policy.

Like most Asian nations, China has a traditional bias for sons. Many families abort female fetuses and abandon baby girls to ensure their one child is a son, so about 118 boys are born for every 100 girls, against a global average of 103 to 107.

In Jiuquan, there are 110 boys for every 100 girls, far less skewed than the national average, because of the freedom to have two children.

Tian Xueyuan, one of the drafters of the original one-child policy, told Reuters that he had warned top officials nearly a decade ago of the flaws.

"A substantial portion of China's men will not be able to find a match ... and that will be a major factor of social instability,'' Tian said he told party leaders.

The usefulness of the one-child policy, he said, has run its course. "It's a special policy with a time limit, specifically, to control the births of one generation,'' Tian told Reuters.

Still, there are significant pockets of resistance. Last week, Wang Xia, the minister in charge of the family planning commission, said China will "unswervingly adhere'' to its family planning policy.

Her remarks dismayed reformers expecting change from the new government, and ignited an outcry among Chinese Internet users.

Analysts said Wang's remarks did not necessarily reflect the thinking of the incoming government. The commission declined to comment.

In Jiuquan today, though the one-child policy is relaxed, women are still subject to strict family planning rules. They are fitted with intra-uterine devices after their first child, sterilized after their second. Anyone who defies the two-child quota pays a 30,000 yuan fine.

Few do. The women in Jiuquan complain about expensive school fees and other expenses of bringing up children.

"It's hard to raise a child,'' said Xing Juan, a 26-year-old with one son. "The burden is heavy.''

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Redcliff from: Aus
January 21, 2013 6:08 PM
The policy one child policy is outdated and need to be terminated. This policy does discriminate parents of choice.The tradition Chinese always intended to have large family, moreover having lopsided more male than female would create an imbalance of sexes in the future. Not only having the difficulty of getting a wife for some in the future but will also contribute to social discontent.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs