- GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries.
China’s Child Policy
Context: Days after China’s census data showed population growth slipping to its slowest rate since the 1950s, the country has announced it will now allow three children per married couple — five years after it first relaxed its controversial one-child policy to two.
China’s one-child policy, which had been enforced by then-leader Deng Xiaoping in 1980, had remained in place until 2016
How well did China’s one-child policy work?
- Population growth impeding economic growth: China embarked upon its one-child policy in 1980, when the Communist Party was concerned that the country’s growing population, which at the time was approaching one billion, would impede economic progress.
- Multi-pronged implementation: One child policy, which was implemented more effectively in urban areas, was enforced through several means, including incentivising families financially to have one child, making contraceptives widely available, and imposing sanctions against those who violated the policy.
- Initial Success: Chinese authorities have long hailed the policy as a success, claiming that it helped the country avert severe food and water shortages by preventing up to 40 crore people from being born.
- Criticisms of One Child Policy: However, the one-child limit was also a source of discontent, as the state used brutal tactics such as forced abortions and sterilisations. It also met criticism and remained controversial for violating human rights, and for being unfair to poorer Chinese since the richer ones could afford to pay economic sanctions if they violated the policy.
- Tool of Social Control: Additionally, China’s rulers have been accused of enforcing reproductive limits as a tool for social control. The Uighur Muslim ethnic minority, for example, has been forced to have fewer children to restrict the growth of their population.
- Skewed sex ratio: Due to the policy, while the birth rate fell, the sex ratio became skewed towards males. This happened because of a traditional preference for male children in the country, due to which abortion of female foetuses rose and so did the number of girls who were placed in orphanages or abandoned.
- Problem of faster ageing: Experts have also blamed the policy for making China’s population age faster than other countries, impacting the country’s growth potential. India’s population, for instance, will start ageing from the middle of this century onwards.
Did relaxing the one-child policy help?
- From 2016, the Chinese government finally allowed two children per couple to arrest the rapid fall in population growth
- However, the policy change that did little. China’s 2020 census data, released earlier this month, shows the country’s rate of population growth falling rapidly despite the 2016 relaxation.
- Last year, 1.2 crore babies were born in China, down from 1.465 crore in 2019 — a fall of 18% in one year.
- The country’s fertility rate has now dropped to 1.3, far below the replacement level of 2.1 necessary for each generation to be fully replenished.
- The United Nations expects China’s population to begin declining after 2030, but some experts say this could happen as early as in the next one or two years.
- By 2025, the country is set to lose its ‘most populous’ tag to India, which in 2020 had an estimated 138 crore people, 1.5 per cent behind China.
Why do many remain skeptical about the three-child policy?
Experts say relaxing limits on reproductive rights alone cannot go a long way in averting an unwanted demographic shift.
- Economic Factors: The main factors behind fewer children being born, they say, are rising costs of living, education and supporting ageing parents. The problem is made worse by the country’s pervasive culture of long working hours.
- Cultural Shift: There has also been a cultural shift during the decades in which the one-child policy remained in force, with many couples believing that one child is enough, and some expressing no interest in having children.
Q. Should India also adopt China’s method of controlling its population?