China apparently no longer has a population problem…or perhaps it’s just another case of the politics of economics trumping rationality.
The Chinese Communist Party announced on Thursday that it is officially easing family planning restrictions and will now allow all couples to have two children. The decision by Chinese officials comes after decades of the one-child policy, and is a major development, although analysts note the government already allowed many exceptions to the policy.
The new two child policy further liberalizes family planning restrictions, already eased in 2013 when the party said it would permit more families to have two children under certain conditions. Of note, many scholars across a range of disciplines had been lobbying for reform of the one child policy, which was implemented in the late 1970s to minimize population growth, but is now seen as outdated and leading to a shrinkage in the labor pool for the rapidly growing economy.
More on changing population trends in China
The announcement of the new two child policy was made at the close of an important Communist Party meeting on financial reforms and maintaining growth between 2016 and 2020 given concerns about China’s slowing economy.
The statement provided no further details on the new two-child policy or when it was to be launched.
The 2013 reform permitted Chinese couples in which one parent is an only child to have a second child.
At the time, critics of the government said the new rules were too little, too late to compensate for the negative impact of the one-child policy on the economy and Chinese society.
In an ironic note, many couples who could have had another child under the 2013 rules, however, decided not to, particularly in larger cities, saying the cost of bringing up children in China today was becoming prohibitive.
Chinese state media announced earlier this year that only 30,000 families in Beijing, a mere 6.7% of those eligible, had requested to have a second child. The government had said in 2014 that it anticipated an additional 54,200 births a year as a result of the change in rules.
Analysts highlight that for the first time in several decades the working age population fell in China in 2012, and it’s possible that China could be the first country in the world to face an aging population before it gets rich.
Many Chinese posting on microblogging site Weibo welcomed the move to a two child policy, but a large number also said they likely wouldn’t have a second child.
“I can’t even afford to raise one, let alone two,” a user noted.
In the past, couples who have broken family planning laws in China have been fined, some lost their jobs, and in some cases, mothers have been forced to abort their babies or even been sterilized.
Statement from Chinese population expert on new two child policy
Wang Feng, an academic and expert on demographic and social change in China, called the new two child policy an “historic event” but said the challenges of China’s aging society still remain.
“It’s an event that we have been waiting for a generation, but it is one we have had to wait much too long for,” Wang observed.
“It won’t have any impact on the issue of the aging society, but it will change the character of many young families,” he said.