Established in 1979 as a means of reducing the population growth rate, China’s one child policy finally comes to an end.
Couples in the world’s most populous country will now be allowed to have two children, as a response to its problem of a rapidly ageing population. The Communist Party of China said, “The change of policy is intended to balance population development and address the challenge of an ageing population,” in a statement published by Xinhua, the official news agency.
The scrapping of the policy which is estimated to have prevented the birth of 400 million people is sure to have several long term consequences for the Chinese population. The policy reform is expected to mean an addition of 30 million people to the labour force by 2050 and a decrease of two percentage points in the share of elderly of the Chinese population, Wang Peian, the deputy head of the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) is reported to have said recently. Given China’s present demographic crisis, an increase in babies would not only help compensate for the large ageing population, but when these babies grow up, also increase the number of people who can support that population.
The one-child policy along with China’s gender preference for boys caused sterilizations, abortions and female infanticide to plague Chinese society. This means that not only is there a significantly wide gender gap today but also that gross human rights violations were committed as long as the policy was in place. Adam Pasick writes in The Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/11/six-consequences-of-one-child-policy-reform/281539/) that although the two child policy can’t change China’s cultural preference for boys, it might lower the pressure on couples if their first child is a girl. Additionally, it could also help reduce, and hopefully, stall, human rights violations such as female infanticide.
The ‘baby boom’ – when it happens- should increase the consumption of baby related goods such as infant formula, clothing and educational services. Pasick believes that one of the Chinese government’s key economic goals is to achieve a more consumption led growth as opposed to the highly export dependent economy it presently is.
The two child policy has not necessarily evoked happiness for all Chinese parents. Lei Lei, a Beijing resident tells The Indian Express that the cost of raising a child in China is high, and having another child will add to their already heavy financial burden. However, finally being given the option of having two children, after decades of severe policy enforcement, should surely be a refreshing change for Chinese parents.
While the two-child policy could have the mentioned positive consequences, The Guardian’s Mei Fong argues that it would take very long before these results start showing. She believes that not only did the one-child policy change the number of kids that a couple had, but has overall changed the way that Chinese people live their lives. Major life decisions such as marriage, employment, and retirement have all been shaped by the policy. Consequently, it is questionable whether the end of the policy will result in any sort of ‘baby boom’ that will undo its negative effects. Like everything in politics, this measure too has its fare share of supporters and critics. Time is the best judge and only time will tell whether the two-child policy will, in fact, prove to be the solution to China’s myriad problems.
By Easha Moitra