Some newspapers are jumping the gun and predicting the end of China’s One Child Policy. It’s not too clear whether we are seeing the slow phase out of the policy or its transformation into something else. Or a bureaucratic turf war emerging out of China’s governmental shift.
China is aging and its average age is only a year lower than that of the United States. Which isn’t good. But it still puts China in the same rage as most major non-Muslim Asian countries, but well below Japan, so it’s not really a crisis situation.
400 million — That’s the number of additional people that China says would be around today if not for the one-child-per-couple rule that took effect 40 years ago. The country says 336 million abortions and 196 million sterilizations have occurred since then.
This isn’t really a problem for China, which thinks it has too many people. And as China urbanizes and leaves behind the countryside. The numbers are horrifying, but both China and Russia have killed huge numbers of its own people and viewed those deaths as fertilizer for their industrialization and growth.
simple arithmetic indicates 1,500 abortions have been performed in China every hour of every day for four decades.
So what is happening with the One Child Policy? That’s an interesting question.
But the most intriguing change is the reorganisation that will merge the family-planning bureaucracy, created purely to control population growth, with the health ministry to form a new Health and Family Planning Commission. Officials have vowed that this does not mean the one-child policy is about to come to an end. But public scrutiny of the policy is growing, along with pressure to loosen or scrap it altogether
Chinese demographers say the social and economic damage done by the policy will be felt for generations. The labour pool is shrinking (by 3.45m in 2012 , the first decline in almost 50 years), the ratio of taxpayers to pensioners will decline from almost five to one to just over two to one by 2030 (see chart), and there are fewer children to support their parents. Shanghai is an example of the demographic time-bomb facing China: its fertility rate, at 0.7, is among the world’s lowest.
Up to 500,000 people on the family-planning payroll. Those who work in the health-care system are much more competent than those in family planning, he adds, so the family planners are more likely to lose their jobs.
It may be that China is preparing to make its policy seem a little friendlier, but that is at odds with what is taking place in the government. On the other hand the growing militarization may have led its leaders to decide that they can afford extra children if they use them up as cannon fodder or settle them in conquered territories. But even that is a bit much.
It’s also not clear whether China can even reverse what it began. Chinese American birth rates (as opposed to Asian American birth rates) is lower than that of the native white population. And that rate is on the low side.
China may have begun this with its One Child Policy, but Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea (not to mention Japan) have even lower birth rates than Mainland China.
While China does use repression to maintain the policy, its own experts suggest that ending the policy would not result in a significant shift. And the region seems to bear that out. And what we may really be seeing is not the end of the One Child Policy, but a growing recognition that the authorities no longer need to work as hard to enforce it, because the people are voluntarily enforcing it on themselves.