China’s one child policy was implemented in 1979 by Communist leader Deng Xiaoping to limit China’s population growth. Although it was originally a temporary measure for the communist government to not be overwhelmed by providing for the population, it continued until it was revised in January 2016.
This policy only applied to the Han Chinese, who are the majority Chinese ethnic group and live in urban areas. Rural Chinese as well as minority groups weren’t subjected to this law.
In 2016, the Chinese government revised the policy to allow families to have two children because many issues arose from the original thirty-year-old reproduction restriction.
The government was worried about a gender imbalance. Most families prefered a son instead of a daughter to carry on the family name. This led to measures such as abortion, abandonment and even infanticide for female babies. Currently, it’s estimated that there are 114 males for every 100 females in China. This ratio may not seem like a huge issue, but in a country of 1.3 billion people, the imbalance is massive.
Another big issue with the policy is the Chinese population’s age imbalance. Soon, a large portion of the Chinese population will retire and there aren’t enough young workers to fill the jobs left behind. As the younger generation grows up, they’ll likely be responsible for taking care of their elderly parents. When that happens, many Chinese couples will be forced to take care of both sets of parents while still being expected to work and have their own family.
Now China must think ahead to how they plan to fill the worker gap that will hit in the years to come. The government must also deal with the problem of how to support their aging population, who will be relying on them because their children cannot take care of them and their families at the same time.
China must also consider how they’ll deal with the gender imbalance. Some of the men who can’t find wives will leave the country and try to find wives elsewhere, which will diminish the labor force.
The One Child Policy seemed like a good idea when it was implemented. The goal was to limit the demand for water and other resources necessary for sustaining the population. The population of China was growing rapidly, partially because the old Chinese government had encouraged population growth. The communist leader Mao Zedong believed that population growth would lead to economic prosperity for the country as part of the cultural revolution in the 1960’s.
But the consequences of having the policy in place for so long are affecting China’s demography, economy and society.
Even though the government has transitioned into a two-child policy, Chinese families are used to the idea of raising only one child and have no incentive to create a larger family. Most Chinese families feel that raising one child is already expensive enough. The cultural norm in their society has also shifted to where having one child is expected. All these will contribute to a smaller rise in child births than is hoped for.
When a government tries to influence its people on an intimate level, the effects can be detrimental. A government should be for the people to protect and serve them, but to infringe on big choices such as family matters, it steps out of the role of a protector and becomes a micromanager.
Wesley Rodriguez-Diep is a sophomore studying international relations.