Previously, in China, couples were allowed to have two children only if both parents were only children. The Chinese government announced last week that it would relax this rule to allow two children to couples so long as at least one parent is an only child.
Al Jazeera reports that by some estimations, approximately $2 billion is collected in fines each year by family planning enforcers. This number may drop with the new guidelines in place allowing more families the opportunity to have two children.
But the questions remains: will this new law provide the needed changes to the country’s demographics? The Chinese population is aging. Will this solve the problem? According to Xu Jianhua, University of Macau sociology professor:
To what extend it will affect Chinese economy remains to be seen as people’s willingness to have a second child may not as high as expected…. Past research has shown that due to the urbanization and modernization, urban citizens’ willingness to have more children is very low.
Elizabeth Economy, Council on Foreign Relations Chinese policy analyst, says that by China’s estimations, this relaxation of the law will resolute in between 1 and 2 million more children. Gordon Chang, an expert on the Chinese economy, stated that from the time a child is born, it will take sixteen years before he or she “enter[s] the workforce.” According to Chang, “[t]his is the biggest social engineering project in history, and it’s a disaster.”
All Girls Allowed, an American-based organization run by Chai Ling, believes that this relaxation is simply not enough:
While All Girls Allowed applauds the Chinese leadership for taking the first steps to ease the One-Child Policy, we believe it is not enough. What about the mother who cannot obtain a birth permit simply because she is unmarried? In June, the world watched the dramatic rescue of the “sewer baby”, whose mother was unmarried and gave birth in a toilet for fear of the authorities. Or what about the families that are eligible to have a second child, but get pregnant too soon? Under current law, many couples must wait at least four years to have another child. The restrictions are oppressive and unnecessary. This foolish and cruel policy should have been abolished in its entirety yesterday, not merely tweaked today.
Stories coming from China show how brute force is used to require families to follow the One-Child policy. And for those who escape the use of force, there are fines to be paid. Additionally, the One-Child policy has caused a gender imbalance in the population, as many families would prefer to have a boy if they are allowed only one child. This new relaxation of the One-Child policy may simply not be enough.