China’s One-Child Policy Examined

Posted on | January 10, 2012 by Lisa Correnti |

A recent article by Matt Soniak, examines how China enforces its one-child policy, which varies based on wealth, ethnicity and geographic provinces. Soniaks writes that the one-child policy was implemented in 1979 to reverse a burgeoning population somewhat due to the Mao government banning birth control as a means to establish China as a superpower.

The author gives a very whitewashed version of how the program is monitored through local provincial authority. There is no mention of the serious human rights abuses inflicted on those who violate the one-child policy; forced abortions and sterilizations, beatings, loss of wages, or that there are 400 million fewer people in China since the program began.

The Chinese governments intention of reducing the population to 1.2 billion by the year 2000 was rather successful. Their 2000 census showed 1.29 billion people.

There have been recent reports that the one-child policy may be relaxed to allow two children per family. Advertisements have begun popping up throughout the country picturing families with two children.

And why you ask for the change, could it be the government is finally responding to international pressure? Hardly. The young labor pool in China is shrinking.

A recent Bloomberg article explains:

After expanding 2.5 percent a year over the past three decades, China’s working-age population has almost stopped growing, said Richard Jackson, director of the Global Aging Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. That pool will contract almost 1 percent a year by the mid-2020s, he said.

The number of 15- to 24-year-olds, who staff the factories that make cheap clothes, toys and electronics, will fall by almost 62 million, to 164 million, in the 15 years through 2025, UN projections show. Meanwhile, those over 65 will rise 78 percent to 195 million.

The positive contribution that came from an expanding workforce in China will turn negative in 2013, wiping at least half a percentage point off the potential annual growth rate, according to Wang Feng, a director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy in Beijing.

“China’s shooting itself in the foot” with the one-child policy, said Wang. “It needs to think of ways to encourage young couples to have more children.”

Jackson says unless China prepares for the aging of its population “a retirement crisis of immense proportions looms just over the horizon in the 2020s.” “On the current course, tens of millions of Chinese are on track to reach old age without pensions, without health care, and without family support networks,” he said.



Turtle Bay and Beyond is a blog covering international law, policy and institutions. Our experts - at the UN, European Institutions, and elsewhere - explore an authentic understanding of international law, sovereignty, and the dignity of the human person. We expose those who would seek to impose a radical social vision that is contrary to these principles.


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