What is China's One Child Policy?

A family with one child in China. Editorial credit: TonyV3112 / Shutterstock.com.
A family with one child in China. Editorial credit: TonyV3112 / Shutterstock.com.

The one-child policy in China was legislated by the Chinese government as a method of checking population growth. The policy was enacted in an effort to reduce economic strain, social problems, and negative implications on the environment associated with the rapid population growth.

The Purpose And Implementation Of The Policy

The policy commenced in 1979 due to the rapid increase in the number of people in the country. The population was nearing 1 billion people thereby forcing the government to fully focus on controlling it. The policy was uniformly implemented and fully enforced in 1980. However, there were exclusions for ethnic minorities, those whose firstborn had a deformity or a family whose firstborn child was not a boy. Such families were given permission to have another child. A child born in another country was not enumerated if he/she never obtained Chinese citizenship whereas Chinese returning from other countries were permitted to bear a second child. The policy was well appreciated in the urban areas by nuclear families. However, the agrarian communities resisted the policy.

Enforcement Of The Policy

Rewards and punishments were used in equal measures to make people follow the policy. Those who adhered to the policy were handsomely rewarded with money or with selected employment opportunities. Those who broke the policy were punished through huge fines known as “social child-raising fee”. Such penalties were collected as a fraction of the yearly income from both urban and rural dwellers. Another part of the policy required women to have a contraceptive (IUD) installed in their body after having the first child. Other methods of enforcement included abortion and sterilization.

The unique policy ceased to be enforced in 2015. It is estimated that since its implementation, the policy has stopped between 200 and 400 million births. However, the efficiency of the policy has been questioned in that population generally and naturally reduces as societies get wealthier. China is a fast-growing economy hence there is a growing number of wealthy people a fact that could have automatically led to a reduced birth rate, low death rate, and increased life expectancy.

Benefits Of The Policy

The policy has performed an important role in improving the living standards of people in China. This is because the policy allows only one child thereby enabling parents to invest money in different ventures. Women also have an increased chance of receiving higher education, get better jobs consequently becoming more financially stable. In addition, the healthcare service for women has greatly improved and there has been a reduction in the risks of deaths connected to pregnancy.

Criticism Of The Policy

The policy has had major consequences on China’s population and economic future. In the current situation, there is a gender imbalance whereby there are more males than females which is as a result of a preference for male children. This imbalance will have a great influence on future marriages in China. China will also be facing a deficiency in the workforce volume and have challenges supporting the aging population. In addition, the single child policy led to the birth of numerous undocumented children who can neither access public education nor leave China through the legal channel.


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