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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid