Thirty years after China’s “one-child” policy was first introduced, the Chinese government has started to consider relaxing the rules in some provinces, the Globe and Mail reported Sunday.
The policy is a blanket term used to describe a complicated set of restrictions that determine the number of children a family may have. Restrictions are based on factors like parent family size, province of residence and previously-born children with disabilities. The one-child policy was introduced in an attempt to combat resource scarcity and spare China’s strained educational system and labour market.
There is no simple perspective on the one-child policy. Critics are quick to point out the policy’s shortcomings, which have resulted in sterilizations and forced abortions in some areas. Also, state-determined limitations on family size run contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
While the policy appears to be guided by a concern for the well-being of the current population, it has created long-term problems that may be more difficult to resolve than simply repealing existing restrictions. China has a reported birth ratio of about 1.19 male children for each female birth—far above the usual ratio of 1.05 to 1. Some claim this is a direct consequence of the one-child policy, as the cultural preference for male children places female babies at a higher risk of abortion or infanticide. An abundance of single men—and the difficulty of finding a female partner—feeds an increasing occurrence of wife and infant trafficking. The gradual easing of the birth restrictions—which weren’t universal to begin with—suggests that the one-child policy will eventually be scrapped. Some experts suggest that large families are now less likely to occur, as rising housing and education costs have a similar effect on family size.
The real issue the Chinese government and population face is what originally led to the one-child policies in the first place. If the Chinese economy cannot support a “natural” population growth, they will inevitably encounter difficulties with or without external limits on population—a rapidly aging working class is first among these issues. Whether or not the one-child laws are entirely abandoned, the Chinese government still faces many hurdles in terms of population growth.
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