Relaxing Child Policy

Published on Author kuveke

Old Chinese men

Amid worries of a demographic imbalance that is shifting China to an older society with more men than women- the result of various sex selection methods with a preference for boys- China allowed married couples where one person in the couple was a single children to have children. The new policy which went into effect in November 2013 has not seemed to have the effect that was intended. In 2012 there were 40 million more men in China then women and the trend does not seem to be changing as there were 18 million more boys then girls under the age of 15. While China hoped that the policy change would help fix the demographic imbalance by allowing families to add a girl to the family and lowering the projected working age the number of people who have taken advantage of the policy change is substantially less than projected.

Among the considerations that have convinced families not to have a second child are rising costs of housing and education. Part of this concern is due to a culture that has emerged after 30 years of China’s one child policy. For decades families put everything into one child and to have to split resources between children would deny them opportunities that help them stay competitive with other children. On top of financial concerns an arduous application process also has dampened enthusiasm to pursue a 2nd child.

Although information regarding data has been difficult to find regarding the number of families who have chosen to have a second child there is a lot of data on how the one child policy has effected Chinese children. The psychological effects of the policy have raised a generation of Chinese children who are more risk adverse and pessimistic furthering worries that China will not have the entrepreneurs it needs in the future.

It is too early to say that the policy has failed to have the effect that has been desires and more provinces are awaiting their turn to be given formal allowance for families to have a second child. However a serious worry if the policy fails is how China will promote higher reproductive rates after decades of indoctrinating a culture of “little emperors”.

Read more here: New York Times on couples foregoing a second child and the New Republic on the “one child” policy

6 Responses to Relaxing Child Policy

  1. I really liked your last line here about a previous culture of indoctrinating “little emperors.” I had always been aware of the one-child policy but had not considered the potential lasting effects such a policy would have post-policy, i.e. reluctance to have more than one child because that would mean splitting resources between them. Such a statement, in my minds, seems to illustrate that Chinese parents may view their children primarily as a reflection upon themselves rather than an invaluable gift, as I think many American parents feel about their children. Rather than being excited to bring more children into the world they seem to view it as just an additional economic burden. It’s a very different culture so I can’t understand and should withhold any judgement but it just seems a shame to me that many Chinese parents view children in this way.

  2. In one of my previous posts (, I discussed that one of the main reasons for the policy change was population aging. Interestingly, this post looks at the change at a different angle. There are still a lot more men than women in China. I agree with you that another possible reason of the change in policy is to have more female. However, I think it will take more time for the Chinese culture (like most of other Asian countries’) of “men first” will not easily change. It will take a long time for it to change…

  3. I was also aware of the one-child policy and the demographic imbalance perturbing the Chinese community. However, I was not mindful that the government was actively trying to implement new laws to venture to increase the female population. Perhaps one way to combat the cultural constrains of families wanting to have a boy is to provide more options or higher positions for women in the labor force. Nevertheless, it is a long-term endeavor that will take time.

    • More studies are certainly needed to determine whether this policy change will have any affect at all. You are right in your analysis of the Government’s incentives.

      • Yes, this will take at least a generation to take its impacts on the labor market.
        However, some argue that relaxation of the one child policy only delays the onset of the Lewis Turning Point a few more years.

  4. Demographic momentum means that even a dramatic rise in the birthrate would not start to affect the labor force until after 2030. If fighting aging is the intent, this policy change is too late. The “one child” policy was never quite what it suggests, as various subgroups of the population faced fewer or no restrictions. But it has fed into gender-selective abortions, hence the gender imbalance.
    Demographers are now starting to analyze the results from the 2010 Census. There are lots of “hidden girls” – the number of 12-year-old-girls is higher than the number of 2-year-olds in the 2000 Census. But the gender imbalance is real. Now what fertility actually is will require a lot of micro data analysis. I’ve searched but to date only found a couple articles.