CHINA: One Child Policy Revised

China“s long-standing ‘One Child Policy’ has been relaxed.  The policy, introduced in 1979 in an effort to slow the population growth rate, has now been revised to allow couples to have two children instead of just one.

Violation of the original policy (having more than one child) was punishable by monetary fines, known as “social compensation fees”, which can be up to 10 times the amount of the average person”s salary. Loss of employment is a possibility, as some companies have a quota for the number of babies allowed to be born within their workforce.  There have even been reports of forced abortion and sterilisation.

Historically, the threat of these punishments have seen a rise in female infanticide and non-reporting of female births especially, as favour is given to boys born into the family because they will carry on the family name and are seen as having greater earning potential to provide for their parents in their old age.

As a result, China is experiencing an unpresidented gender imbalance in the population. China”s 2005 Census Data revealed that  for every 100 girls born in China, 119 boys were born. The census also shows that the biggest gap between boys and girls occurs in the 1 to 4 years age group, meaning that in the future the population is set to be just as unbalanced in young adults as it is now, considering that the census found that there were 32 million more males under 20 years old than females. It is important to note that the data found in the census does not account for the children who were born outside of the one child policy, and are therefore unregistered and are not legally recognised with the authorities. This number could be in the millions.

The Communist Party began to relax the rule in 2013 deciding that couples, where at least one parent was an only child themselves, should be allowed to have a second child. This followed the ruling that couples in rural areas could have a second child, but only if their first was born a girl.

These concessions, however, did not do a great deal towards growing the young population in China, as around 30% of the current 1.36 billion population is over the age of 50. In effect, there will not be enough working age citizens to keep the economy afloat over the next few decades. The charts below, courtesy of BBC News, illustrate the decline in children and young people in China since the 1979 policy was enforced.


The Community Party”s Central Committee have declared that the relaxation of the policy to allow two children per family was in order “to improve the balanced development of population”. Understandably, it will be a decade or two before China will start to see the gap in the number of young working age adults begin to close. As a result of this, now would be the perfect time for expats to explore job opportunities in China, as the economy would benefit from their input until such a time that the country can support it’s industries sufficiently with Chinese citizens alone. This could, however trigger the Chinese goverment to revise their immigration policy to restrict immigration, should there be a large influx of expats migrating to China for work.

Yet doubts are being raised as to whether this new rule will raise the birth rate as it is expected to. It has now become a social norm in China for families to only have one child, and therefore many couples may choose not to take the opportunity to have another. Another factor is that couples on the average wage could struggle to make ends meet raising one child, so having the permitted second child could be too much of a strain on the family finances.

On the contrary, some have argued that the inevitable “baby boom” that is likely to follow the revised policy could have an adverse effect on the country”s resources and economy. Around half of the world”s pork, aluminium, steel and cement are consumed by China at present, so the growth in population, the two child policy could facilitate may put a strain on global resources as a whole.

Pollution is also a major problem, with the World Bank estimating that up to 8% of China”s gross domestic product in 2007 was lost as a result of water and air pollution. China has pledged to cap their carbon emissions by 2030, but it was recently revealed that China is already burning 17% more coal than first reported, and with the probable population growth over the next few years this promised reduction in emissions will no doubt prove to be a daunting task. 

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