After more than 30 years of practicing the one-child policy that was to slow down the population growth, the Chinese government allows Chinese couples now to have two children. The one-child policy has always allowed for exceptions, e.g. for members of ethnic minorities and rural couples. Since 2015 all families can now have two children. As the birth rate is declining since 2018, families are even encouraged to have a second child.
Why the change of policy? The reasons have to do with the demographic development of the country. Who should care for the aging population and what about the fact that there are less and less people, who support a growing number of others, who do not generate an income? Not only are the numbers of aging people rising dramatically, but there is also a gender imbalance due to which millions of men are not able to find marriage partners.
“The UN estimates that by 2050 China will have about 440 million people over 60. The working-age population – those between 15 and 59 – fell by 3.71 million last year.” However, “experts said the relaxation of family planning rules is unlikely to have a lasting demographic impact, particularly in urban areas where couples are now reluctant to have two children because of the high cost. Just because the government says you can have another child, it doesn’t mean the people will immediately follow,” said Liang Zhongtang, a demographer at the Shanghai Academy of Social Science.” (The Guardian 30. Oct.2015).
Many people are of the opinion that the state should stop controlling family planning altogether. As Stuart Gietel-Basten (BBC) puts it: “Even if people are allowed to have two children, what if they want to have three children or more? What if unmarried women want to have their own children? At the end of the day, it’s about women’s reproductive rights and freedoms.”
During my travels in China during the past 15 years I have often been told that the one-child policy has not really been practiced nor controlled consequently. For example, wealthy couples able to pay the extremely high penalty for having a second child have done that. Furthermore, due to fertility treatments, pregnancies with two or even more babies are acceptable. Couples have been allowed to keep both or all children even before the new regulations became effective.
As for preferring boys to girls, also here a trend shift seems to be taking place. Today young men move away from home as their work may require relocation. Daughters-in-law are no longer reliable care takers for the aging parents. Some people believe that daughters are more reliable that is daughters-in-law, in this respect. So baby girls are now more welcome than they were in earlier times when the only officially sanctioned child should preferably have been a boy.
Links for further reading:
The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/29/china-abandons-one-child-policy