China May Relax One Child Policy

Cheryl Phillips's picture

Since 1979 China has enforced the one child policy for population control. Earlier this week, the head of family planning in Shanghai said young couples should have more babies because the city was growing old. Government officials are considering revising the ban because current trends show that China’s population will start to decline by the middle of the century.

The current one child policy is the population control policy of the People's Republic of China. It officially restricts the number of children married urban couples can have to one, although it allows exemptions for several cases, including rural couples, ethnic minorities, and parents without any siblings themselves.

Shanghai was the first modern city in China to begin rethinking the current one child policy. Five other provinces have followed in Shanghai's footsteps by relaxing the rule requiring four years between births for those who have been allowed to have more than one child (i.e. In the countryside, people may have a second child if their first is a girl, or disabled.).

China’s population has passed 1.3 billion and is still growing, it is expected to peak in the next 30 years. By the middle of the century China will have more than 330 million people over the age of 60. Universally, the live birth ratio is 105 boys to 100 girls but in China it is 119 to 100. This results in abortions as couples who are under the one child policy want to have a boy as their only child.

“There’s a huge social demand for second children,” said Yang Henmin, an engineer in Shanghai. “In the end the government cannot control it any more than it can grasp the wind.”

If the one child policy stays in place, there could be a stressful situation in China. With the current policy, the average family in Shanghai has four grandparents, two parents and one child. That means there is only one of the "young" generation to care for four older and two middle aged family members. That is a large responsibility to put on one person and eventually, the one child policy will lean to an overwhelming amount of elderly who need care and very few young, self sufficient people in China.

There is no word as to when the one child policy will be changed, if at all. For now, there are exceptions that can be made for parents who are both only children (they are allowed to have two children). No restrictions apply to China’s minorities, including Tibetans and Uighur Muslims.

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