On Thursday evening China announced that it is ending its one-child policy. The announcement came after a four-day Plenum of the Communist party in Beijing but is that enough to keep the nation’s population from shrinking?
Words: Mariya Savova, Subeditor: Daisy Greenaway
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) October 29, 2015
“The change of policy is intended to balance population development and address the challenge of an ageing population,” the party said in a statement published by Xinhua, China’s official press agency.
The one-child policy was introduced in 1979, shortly after the country’s population topped 800 million. Couples who violated the policy suffered punishments such as fines, loss of employment, or even forced abortions. According to the BBC, about 400 million births have been prevented by the one-child policy.
Although dropping the controversial rule is a huge change, it is not something unexpected. The policy was significantly loosened in 2013 when the state allowed couples to have two children if one parent was an only child. Ethnic minorities have always been allowed two kids and Chinese people, who are wealthy enough to pay the fines, have broken the rules.
By allowing people to have more than one child, the Communist Party is trying to create sustainable population growth. Statistics show that at the end of 2014 the number of Chinese people over the age of 65 reached 137 million, which is more than 10 percent of the population. It is believed that the nation’s population will reach its peak in 2017 and after that it will rapidly decline. Last year’s UN Report on the World Population Situation predicts China will have over 400 million over-60s by 2050, placing enormous pressure on resources.
Experts believe that the announcement that people are free to have two children will not lead to a baby boom. Perhaps the Chinese government will have to come up with other incentives, such as benefits for parents, to make people consider expanding their families?
Expectedly, the policy change led to a huge discussion on social media. While many celebrated the scrapping of the one-child policy, some pointed out that the state continues to control the size of Chinese families.
— 陈光诚 Guangcheng Chen (@iguangcheng) October 29, 2015
End of "One Child Policy" welcome. But "Two Child Policy" won't end forced sterilizations, forced abortions, gov control over birth permits.
— William Nee (@williamnee) October 29, 2015
The end of the one-child policy was the most discussed topic on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform. According to The New York Times, some people announced that they would start trying to conceive a second child as soon as possible. However, many are certain that they won’t have another baby due to financial reasons.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 30, 2015
— CNN (@CNN) October 30, 2015
Comments on Weibo suggest that most Chinese families would rather focus all their resources on raising one child, rather than two. In China the welfare standard is worse than in Europe and the US . Middle class people spend a great amount of their salary towards paying off housing loans, which means that the couples, who are likely to take the opportunity to have more than one child, won’t be many.