China right in ending its one-child policy, but still needs to do more

November 18, 2015 — by Caitlin Ju

China’s outdated one-child policy, instituted by the Communist Party in 1980, was rightfully ended by the Chinese government on Oct. 29. Chinese couples are now allowed to have two children.

China’s outdated one-child policy, instituted by the Communist Party in 1980, was rightfully ended by the Chinese government on Oct. 29. Chinese couples are now allowed to have two children.

The policy was originally enacted to help solve China’s urgent problem of overpopulation. In the 1970s, China boasted a fast-growing population of 975 million people, and according to Time, women were having more than five children on average.

Despite this, the necessity of the one-child policy at the time can be contested, as the birthrate was already falling before the law was introduced. If the one-child policy had not been implemented then, China could have avoided denying women control of their bodies and as Ma Jian of The New York Times stated, the “basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.”

However, with urbanization and rising incomes, times have changed for China, and accordingly, so has its stance toward population control. Yet the recent change came too little too late: The one-child policy has already left detrimental and lasting effects on the nation.

To restore a healthy state for the country, the Chinese government should do away with any population-restricting policy at all.

The first problem China’s one-child policy has left in its wake is a severe gender imbalance. In 2008, the gender ratio between boys and girls was 1.22, and by 2020, the National State Population and Family Planning Commission estimates that “males of marrying age will outnumber females by at least 30 million.” Chinese families’ decision in the face of the one-child policy to prefer sons over daughters explains the gender imbalance.

Chinese society is notorious for being patriarchal, viewing sons as the “worthy” ones for carrying on the family name. According to Newsweek, in the mid-1980s, the Chinese government allowed rural families who had a girl or disabled child first to have a second child, effectively creating an association between girls and the disabled.

In addition, because of the heavy fine on any who violated the stringent policy, many couples took advantage of the technological advancement that allowed them to view the gender of their child, resulting in hundreds of millions of abortions of unwanted girls. Poor women who could not pay the fine and were pregnant with illegal second or third children were dragged to local clinics and had lethal drugs injected into their abdomens.

According to data released by the Chinese Health Ministry in March of 2013, 336 million abortions and 222 million sterilizations have been carried out since 1971, many of them forced.

An even greater concern than the skewed gender numbers, though, is China’s aging population. According to The Washington Post, by 2060, 70-year-olds will form the largest share of China’s population. This will cause problems such as a greater dependency ratio, higher taxes for the working force because of increased government spending in health care and a shortage of workers. China realized this late in 2013 and consequently amended the policy to permit couples to have two children if either parent had no siblings, but this small adjustment did not lead to any significant changes in the population.

Asia-Pacific said analysts predict that with the removal of the one-child policy, the average number of children for women of child-bearing age will rise to 1.93. However, this is still not enough; the number needs to reach 2.1 to compensate for the lowered population created by the policy.

The reality is that couples in China, assured by the fast-growing economy, are not feeling the need to have more children. Additionally, like that of Japan and South Korea, the population of China has become more educated; work takes priority in many families and women start to have children later or not at all, causing birth rates to lower. All of these countries are struggling with an aged population, and population restricting policies at this point do not make sense.

Ultimately, getting rid of the one-child policy is a step in the right direction, but the Chinese government needs to act quickly to end all of its policies curbing the population. The Foundation for Economic Education said the population bomb that emerged as a worldwide obsession in the 1960s and 1970s has “all but defused” as a result of China’s economic growth.

The current birth rate in China is not enough to replace the aging population. As time goes on, it will only become harder to reverse the problems, which include a sharp gender imbalance and an aging, slow-growing population, now plaguing China as a result of its ill-advised one-child policy.

5 views this week