China Ends One-Child Policy
China announced Thursday [Oct. 29] it would be ending its one-child policy, which was enacted in 1979 to combat the fast-growing population.
The statement was released by China’s Communist Party regarding the controversial topic; the policy has been estimated to prevent around 400 million births, but as China’s aging population has led its leaders to rethink the policy.
100 million couples are expected to benefit from the change in policy, but there are some couples expressing their distress, citing monetary issues as the leading problem as to why they cannot afford to have a second child. For some, the change has come too late.
“I would want three kids if I had been allowed! But it was in the 1980s — raising kids was much easier then,” said Tian Xiling, a retired worker. “Now my son can’t afford a second child. Food, clothing, education… all cost a fortune today.”
The abolishment of one-child policy would “increase labor supply and ease pressures from an aging population,” the National Health and Family Planning Commission, which enforces the policy, said in a statement. “This will benefit sustained and healthy economic development.”
In 2013, China eased its restrictions on the one-child policy, allowing couples to have two children if one of the spouses was an only child. But, as noted earlier, some couples turned down the opportunity to have a second child, citing the expense and pressure of raising a child in a highly competitive society. And even with the new freedom granted to couples now, experts have predicted many couples may opt to not have a second child because of the cultural and social norm to have only one child.
One of the biggest issues arising from China’s one-child policy deals with women’s inability to control their fertility as the state continually seeks to guide the pregnancy of a woman. The one-child policy, according to campaigners, led to forced abortions, female infanticide, and the under-reporting of female births. It also helped implicate the cause of China’s gender imbalance.
“As long as the quotas and system of surveillance remains, women still do not enjoy reproductive rights,” Maya Wang of Human Rights Watch told AFP.
The change in policy comes at a time when China’s economy is beginning to have supply and demand issues. A recent sign of this came last week when China’s central bank cut interest rates again, from 4.6 to 4.35 percent. The government also announced that banks would be allowed to lend more of their money, seemingly contradicting to their claims of their country growing 6.9 percent (something countries don’t do if their economy is, indeed, growing). Hence, many are seeing China’s sudden change as clear sign that the government is worried about a labor shortage, as well as decline of birthrates.