Is the End in Sight? Recent Changes and the Future of the One-Child Policy

IMAGE: harvardpolitics.com

 

JIANGSU, China--On Saturday March 29th, Jiangsu province officially implemented  a new selective Two-Child Policy. Parents in Jiangsu will now be able to have two children if one of them is an only child. The only other condition is that the mother must be over 24 years old.

 

Chinese provinces have been implementing this adapted policy one by one since the decision to tweak the One-Child Policy was announced in November 2013. The selective Two-Child Policy is not yet universal across China, as each provincial government must individually write it into law. Jiangsu is one of the most recent provinces to announce official policy change, but it was preceded by several other provinces and municipalities like Sichuan, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Tianjin.

 

Currently, 11 out of China’s 34 provinces have adopted the selective Two-Child Policy, but conditions for the parents vary by province. In Jiangsu, a mother must be over 24 before having a second child. In Chongqing and Beijing, if the mother is under 28 she must have at least a four year interval between her first and second child.

 

Another variable between provinces is the number of families eligible to take advantage of these changes. In Guangdong, less than 150,000 families qualify for a second child, while in Sichuan 1.28 million families are eligible. This means that the “relaxed” policy will have different effects from one province to the next.

 

Although there are millions of families who qualify to have two children, not all of them want to do it. In Sichuan and Guangdong, an estimated 70% of families are willing to have a second child, but in Fujian that number is 60% and in Jiangsu it’s only 40%. Costly health care, education, and housing are major deterrents for parents thinking about expanding their families. Consequently, adapting the policy does not guarantee a baby boom.

What impact will the tweaked policy have on China’s demographics then?

 

Again, the population effects will vary by province, but Family Planning Officials in several provinces predict the impact of the modified policy will be negligible. In Guangdong and Jiangsu, Family Planning Officials say the selective Two-Child Policy will have little impact on demographics there. Fujian province has a population around 37.2 million, but only 56,000 babies are expected to be added to the population in the next two years.  Similarly, Shanghai is the largest city in the world with a population of 23.9 million, but in the next 3-5 years officials estimate that  only 75,000-150,000 people will be added to the population.

 

Wang Peian, deputy director of the Ministry of Health and Family Planning, estimates that the overall population increase will only be two million over the next three years. Although the Chinese government fears a rapid increase in population, demographers don’t. "There's not going to be a baby boom on account of this [policy change] alone," Liang Zhongtan, a population expert at the Academy of Social Sciences in Shanghai said.

 

Even though China is not likely to see a significant population increase soon, officials are reluctant to further relax the policy. "At present, we cannot skip to the stage of a two-child policy without any restrictions...However, our policy will be looser and looser," said Yuan Xin, a Nankai University policy expert. According to the Guardian, Yuan said there were “concerns that changing the rules too quickly could have a dramatic effect on the allocation of resources and economic development.”

 

The reason China changed the One-Child Policy had much to do with the negative effects it has had on demographics. Because of the One-Child Policy, China’s population is imbalanced in gender and rapidly ageing. This also means that China’s workforce and pool of taxpayers is also shrinking--a dangerous situation for the economy.

By the time Family Planning Officials tried to remedy this, however, it was too late to undo the problems. “Even if China were to experience a baby “boomlet,” the country would continue to age, its labor force shrink and its gender imbalance persist for generations.” an article by Yale Global stated. “Also, while a rise in the birthrate would increase the demands for housing, education, food, care and related services, at least two decades would pass before the boomlet babies entered the workforce and paid taxes.”

Although implementation of the selective Two-Child Policy is a positive step, many see it as “too little too late” for China. In the words of The Economist, “The facts of modern life rendered the one-child policy obsolete long before China’s leaders dared tinker with it.”

So where is this all going in the future?

The next step in eradicating the One-Child Policy will likely be to allow all Chinese couples to have two children. There is no specific timeframe for this change, but according to Zhang Chewei, a population expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, "there is no doubt that the two-child policy will be completely opened in future". Right now, the recent changes should be implemented universally in China by 2015.  Those family planning policies will  most likely remain in effect until 2020. Some officials and demographers have proposed removing all family planning restrictions in 2020, but the Chinese government is wary of overextending the country’s resources (even though experts say that is unlikely).

Regardless of the government’s beliefs, the end of the One-Child Policy is closer now than it has been for the past three decades. More demographers, government officials, and international experts are disagreeing with China’s population control methods and ridiculing the One-Child Policy. Even if the new changes came too late and will not have much effect, they are changes.

As followers of Jesus, we now have an important role to play in this battle. Evidence shows that the One-Child Policy is hurting China, yet the Chinese government is reluctant to relax its grip on Chinese families and their personal lives. Family Planning Officials need to see their citizens as humans, not just numbers and units that use up resources. The government's affinity for family planning restrictions runs deeper than population control--there is a real spiritual stronghold there. While experts can use numbers and percentages to convince the government to end the One-Child Policy, the only way the spiritual stronghold will break is through prayer.

It is important to pray now as the Chinese government considers China’s future. Maybe we ourselves can’t go to China and petition the government to stop, but we can petition God to destroy the forces of evil there. As we rejoice in the recent policy changes, let’s continue to fervently intercede for China and ask God to remove any obstacles in the way of ending the One-Child Policy. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

 

by Emilie, All Girls Allowed


Pray for China! Click here to see our prayer guide and individual prayer requests.

All Girls Allowed (http://www.allgirlsallowed.org) was founded in 2010 with a mission to display the love of Jesus by restoring life, value and dignity to girls and mothers in China and revealing the injustice of the One-Child Policy.  “In Jesus’ Name, Simply Love Her.”

 


 




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