A little over a year ago, China’s central government announced the abolition of the one-child policy. Minor easements have weakened the restriction throughout the years, such as allowing rural families a second child and the change in 2013 that allowed a second, if one of the parents is an only child, but the decades-old restriction was finally finished on 1 January, 2016 - the policy now allows two children.
The birth-limiting program was enacted in 1980 to curb the rapid population growth of the time, but fears surrounding China’s current demographic situation inspired the new change. Mei Fong », author and former Wall Street Journal reporter, summarized the problem: “The reason China is doing this right now is because they have too many men, too many old people, and too few young people,” and “if people don’t start having more children, they’re going to have a vastly diminished workforce to support a huge aging population.”
Critics are worried that a two-child policy won’t stop what are seen as human rights violations. Keeping the two-child policy means that the government will retain its enforcement tools, including fines and forced abortions.
“Provincial sampling suggests that the Chinese government collects about 20 billion yuan ($3 billion US) per year in family-planning fines,” according to Pei Minxin », professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.
“As long as the quotas and system of surveillance remains, women still do not enjoy reproductive rights,” said Maya Wang ». In fact, couples seeking a second pregnancy must still submit an application for a birth permit.
Many argue that the policy wasn’t the main reason for the decline in fertility in these past 30 years. In that time China has seen huge economic growth and some many millions of individuals have climbed out of poverty, which some say is the greater factor at play.
“[T]he most effective path for preventing a population explosion is prosperity. It works much more successfully than sending out police to arrest and fine citizens, something even Chinese officials, to their growing consternation, are discovering. Couples naturally decide to have fewer children as they move from the fields into the cities, become more educated, and when women establish careers outside the home,” according to Frida Ghitis », world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review.
While previous efforts to loosen the policy were expected to cause spikes in fertility rates, China’s younger generation feels that a small family is ideal. Social media response to the two-child system was unspectacular and birth rates aren’t expected to really bloom any time soon. “...more than 20 million young men will not be able to find marriage partners in the coming decades. The most sobering lesson from this tally of the one-child policy’s toll on China lies in the simple fact that the authorities were able to enforce it for so long,” said Pei.
Benjamin Buffa is a senior at the University of Missouri–Kansas City (UMKC), pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in French.