.
C

hina’s one-child policy, instituted in 1980 as a population control measure, officially ended in 2016 and a two-child policy replaced it. Rampant infanticide, sterilization, forced abortions, and child abandonment arose from the policy’s enforcement. The one-child policy hurt many, and its repercussions extend beyond the policy’s end.

China’s birthrate has continued to decline after the one-child policy’s end in 2016, reaching its lowest level on record in 2019. The Chinese government responded to continuing low birthrates by releasing initiatives and general incentives to urge citizens to have two children. The Chinese government wants more babies for a working class to support its growing economy expected to become the world’s largest this decade. China loses competitiveness as a source of labor within the region as their younger working populations decrease. However, efforts to increase China’s birthrate face challenges such as population preference, demographic obstacles, and momentum caused by the previous one-child policy.

Many Chinese citizens do not want more than one child because of the high cost of raising children, and it makes more sense for them to allocate limited resources to a single child’s requirements. The cost of raising children remains especially high for those living in cities and urban areas in China. In large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, couples often spend more than 2 million yuan (approximately USD $310,000) to raise their child to university age. Educational costs and competition for elite schools and extracurriculars add further financial pressures for Chinese parents. One child remains the sensible financial choice for many Chinese couples, inhibiting the governments' actions to increase the birthrate.

Men outnumber women in China by more than 30 million, largely as a consequence of the one-child policy. Couples prioritized male children because a male carries on the family bloodline in Chinese culture, and this contributed to the significant gender imbalance. In today’s China, many men will never marry or have children, hindering population growth but also leading to secondary problems like loneliness and increased crime. An overabundance of men remains a consequence that affects China beyond the desire for an increased birthrate.

Women are increasingly involved in China’s workforce, comprising 43% of China’s workforce in 2016, exceeding the target expected of 2020. Career focus for women often takes precedent over raising children. Additionally, many women in China don’t want to risk hindering their work opportunities because of gender discrimination. Women in China may fear increased discrimination in their occupation by adding motherhood of multiple children in the demands of their job and life. The potential for discrimination lead women to be more prudent in having multiple children, comprising motivations to increase China’s birthrate.

Thirty years of propaganda and punishment for the one-child policy established a one-child norm in China. Many people in China of childbearing age have only known a single child life. A one-child life remains deeply entrenched from the decades of government conditioning reared from punishment and frequent involuntary birth control. Lawyer Chen Guangcheng said the one-child policy “created a deformed society" that hinders incentives to have more children.  

China’s government ended the one-child policy when it became clear birthrates were plummeting too rapidly. The enactment of a two-child policy came from worries that a decreased younger generation will hinder China’s rising economy and competitiveness as a labor source. However, the primary concern of cost, an overabundance of men, increasing rates of women in the workforce, and entrenched norms impedes a reversal of family planning action. The years after China’s one-child policy reveal that it’s harder to stimulate population growth than constrain it.

About
Whitney DeVries
:
Whitney DeVries is a Diplomatic Courier correspondent currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Affairs and Global Enterprise at the University of Utah.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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China’s Path to Halting Population Decline Is Uncertain

Photo by Chastagner Thierry via Unsplash.

February 19, 2021

C

hina’s one-child policy, instituted in 1980 as a population control measure, officially ended in 2016 and a two-child policy replaced it. Rampant infanticide, sterilization, forced abortions, and child abandonment arose from the policy’s enforcement. The one-child policy hurt many, and its repercussions extend beyond the policy’s end.

China’s birthrate has continued to decline after the one-child policy’s end in 2016, reaching its lowest level on record in 2019. The Chinese government responded to continuing low birthrates by releasing initiatives and general incentives to urge citizens to have two children. The Chinese government wants more babies for a working class to support its growing economy expected to become the world’s largest this decade. China loses competitiveness as a source of labor within the region as their younger working populations decrease. However, efforts to increase China’s birthrate face challenges such as population preference, demographic obstacles, and momentum caused by the previous one-child policy.

Many Chinese citizens do not want more than one child because of the high cost of raising children, and it makes more sense for them to allocate limited resources to a single child’s requirements. The cost of raising children remains especially high for those living in cities and urban areas in China. In large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, couples often spend more than 2 million yuan (approximately USD $310,000) to raise their child to university age. Educational costs and competition for elite schools and extracurriculars add further financial pressures for Chinese parents. One child remains the sensible financial choice for many Chinese couples, inhibiting the governments' actions to increase the birthrate.

Men outnumber women in China by more than 30 million, largely as a consequence of the one-child policy. Couples prioritized male children because a male carries on the family bloodline in Chinese culture, and this contributed to the significant gender imbalance. In today’s China, many men will never marry or have children, hindering population growth but also leading to secondary problems like loneliness and increased crime. An overabundance of men remains a consequence that affects China beyond the desire for an increased birthrate.

Women are increasingly involved in China’s workforce, comprising 43% of China’s workforce in 2016, exceeding the target expected of 2020. Career focus for women often takes precedent over raising children. Additionally, many women in China don’t want to risk hindering their work opportunities because of gender discrimination. Women in China may fear increased discrimination in their occupation by adding motherhood of multiple children in the demands of their job and life. The potential for discrimination lead women to be more prudent in having multiple children, comprising motivations to increase China’s birthrate.

Thirty years of propaganda and punishment for the one-child policy established a one-child norm in China. Many people in China of childbearing age have only known a single child life. A one-child life remains deeply entrenched from the decades of government conditioning reared from punishment and frequent involuntary birth control. Lawyer Chen Guangcheng said the one-child policy “created a deformed society" that hinders incentives to have more children.  

China’s government ended the one-child policy when it became clear birthrates were plummeting too rapidly. The enactment of a two-child policy came from worries that a decreased younger generation will hinder China’s rising economy and competitiveness as a labor source. However, the primary concern of cost, an overabundance of men, increasing rates of women in the workforce, and entrenched norms impedes a reversal of family planning action. The years after China’s one-child policy reveal that it’s harder to stimulate population growth than constrain it.

About
Whitney DeVries
:
Whitney DeVries is a Diplomatic Courier correspondent currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Affairs and Global Enterprise at the University of Utah.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.