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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    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.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora