The purpose of the one-child policy, enacted by communist leader Deng Xiaoping, was to get China’s population growth under control, as well as to raise the per-capita economic standards of the country. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but under this policy, couples were limited to one child — or they were supposed to be. People who wanted to have a second child had the option of paying fines, which sounds like bribing, to family-planning officials to get permission.
While the one-child policy did achieve its goal of lowering the birthrate and increasing the economic standards of the country, the price was steep compared with the problems it created.
The one-child policy led to an increase in female infanticide, the sale of children, sex-selective abortions, forced abortions, suicide rates and child-rearing costs, and has created an extremely competitive society. This has led to a major gender imbalance where there are 118 males for every 100 females, compared with the global average of 103 to 107, which translates to 33 million more men than women. In addition, the current low total fertility rate of 1.6 has created an aging population and a shrinking workforce.
China recently changed its one-child policy to a two-child policy in the hopes of reinvigorating the workforce, mitigating the 4-2-1 problem and decreasing the gender imbalance. In traditional Chinese culture, children take care of older family members who are no longer able to care for themselves. This leaves one child to care for two parents and four grandparents, hence the 4-2-1 title.
China has little parental leave, expensive housing, minimal parental support and high education costs. This encourages having only one child to focus on, as having a second child would take away potential resources and opportunities from the first child. This means parents who are now able to have a second child may choose not to do so simply because of the financial burden and expected success of each child.
“Experts say a combination of factors, including a focus on higher education, bulging costs of living and increased employment migration, have damped the desire for an extra child,” Laurie Burkitt said in the Wall Street Journal.
It seems as though the current circumstances of the Chinese population almost guarantee the failure of the policy. Even if couples take advantage of the two-child policy, it will still be 20 years before those children enter the workforce and begin making an impact on society.
According to the editorial board at TheWashington Post, the high cost of child rearing means that many will be deterred from having more than one child anyway.
“In short, it is too late to reverse the damage and China will suffer the consequences for generations to come,” according to TheWashington Post.
China should reconsider exchanging its two-child policy for no policy. The entire country is built on financially and socially encouraging families to have one child.
The sudden permission for a second child does nothing to mitigate the financial risks of the child.
Alissa Smith is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.