China’s child dilemma 

Since 1979 China has had a one child policy that limited most couples from quite literally having more than once child. This is changing. 

It was announced last week that the Chinese Government, as part of their latest 5 Year Plan have decided to ease its restrictions on couples wishing to have a second child.

This is a long overdue reform but for many it is too little too late for a number or reasons.

Since 1975 there has been a consistent line from Beijing that Chinese couples should operate under Wan, Xi, Shao (later, longer, fewer).800 That means have less kids, have them longer apart and have less of them.

It was a response to China passing the 800 million people mark in 1970 and a need to modernise China.

The thought was that handling a massive population and making China more modern were two tasks that the Chinese Government could not manage at the same time.

They chose modernising over populating. So in 1979 the one child policy came into affect. This obliterated the birth rate and anyone found to breach this policy was slapped with fines, forced abortions and sterlisation to name a few. 1979 - One Child Policy starts (1)

Nowadays, faced with a number of societal issues stemming from the one child policy, China is changing tactics and opening up the opportunity for thousands of couples to legally have a second child and hopefully a baby boom for China.

The One Child Legacy

Although the policy may have changed, albeit not radically, there is still a lasting legacy that will hang over China for years, if not decades to come. Here’s just two of the major issues facing China.

The Gender Problem


In the eyes of some, having a boy was and still is more prized than having a girl. There is a long history of abortion, abandonment and infanticide when a girl is conceived. This has left the natural gender balance in China completely out of whack, so much so that there are 33 million men in China without a wife.

The Age Problem

Most family units in China take the same structure. There’s one child with two parents and 4 grandparents.This creates a few problems. The main problem is that there are some people who have two parents and four grandparents as dependants and no siblings and in some cases no partner to ease the burden.

In fact if you are married that 4 – 2 -1 ratio really becomes 8 – 4 – 2. By 2050, at current rates China’s life expectancy will grow until it reaches a point where for every 100 people aged 20 – 64 there will be 45 people over the age of 65. Basically it will look like this:

A glimpse into what China's demorgaphics will look like in 2015, with 45 (orange) 65+ people for every 100 (blue) 20-64 years olds.
A glimpse into what China’s demographics will look like in 2015, with 45 (orange) 65+ people for every 100 (blue) 20-64 years olds.

China has a massive job ahead of them in correcting the legacy of the one child policy. Only time will tell how China comes out of this and the long term affect of both the one child policy and the new two child policy.

What do you think about government population control? Do you think it is a necessary tool for future sustainability or an infringement on people’s basic freedoms and reproductive rights? 

Let us know in the comment below!

Photo Credit: Anja Disseldrop/Flickr


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