晚稀少:Late Rare Few

Published on Author zhoun18

Back in Mao’s era, women were courage by chairman Mao to have as many children as possible. Chairman Mao was worried that the newly established country, the People’s Republic of China, would be involved with warfare like the potential WW3, so he wanted China to have more population. Besides, more people meant more labor to help with the agriculture which he emphasized. The population was hard to analyze at that time, but chairman Mao recognized women who have more than 10 children “honored mothers”. These “honored mothers” had some subsidy from the government to raise up children. The policy had the strong impact on today’s Chinese population, so does the world population. Some Chinese economists in 1950s realized the problem, but the government did not start controlling the population growth until 1960s. Women were married young in order to start having children at young ages.


Today, the situation is so different that people started using the phrase “晚稀少,” in order to describe that Chinese women get married really late in their lives and have as few child as possible. Statistically, the mode of the age of women getting married in 1982 was between 21-22. The number changed to 25-26 in 2010.1 Because of the single-child policy, on average, Chinese family has 1-2 children. Even though the policy was loosened last year, not many families would change their mind on the number of children they want to have. They have lots of concerns. First of all, it is really expensive to raise another child in China. Because of inflation, the price of education and food raised a lot over past decades. A couple would need to spend 2.76 million yuan to support a child from birth to college in Beijing, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.2 Some families simply can’t afford to raise up another child. Secondly, since women are getting married late for reasons like education, they do not have time to raise up two children. If both of the parents need to work, it is really hard for them to spare time with families of four or more.


Work Cited:


Wei, Y., Jiang, Q., & Basten, S. (2013). Observing the transformation of china’s first marriage pattern through net nuptiality tables: 1982-2010. Finnish Yearbook of Population Research, (48), 65-75. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1501912425?accountid=14882

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Nuoya is currently a freshman at Washington and Lee University. In high school she enjoyed music, and was the only violin player at her school. Nuoya’s performed in spring and winter concerts for three years during high school. Nuoya also enjoys team sports. She was a member of both the varsity and JV high school volleyball teams. Also, as part of fundraising for her senior class gift, Nuoya “smuggled” pearls from China to the United States, raising hundreds of dollars for her senior class! In her spare time, Nuoya loves reading dystopian literature and watching Sci-Fi movies. Nuoya’s personal research interest are in the history of luxury. Her high school was not far from New York City, where she became familiar with luxury brands on Fifth Avenue. She is interested in further exploring the creation of luxury, as well as the history of branding.

11 Responses to 晚稀少:Late Rare Few

  1. Policy shifted even before the end of the Cultural Revolution. Formally the “later” (marriage), “rarer” (longer spacing between children), “fewer” (total) – actually dates to 1972. 中华人民共和国计划生育史 in zh.wikipedia.org provides more details. Furthermore, in urban areas realized fertility was already low in 1970, two-career families, housing constraints, job opportunities and educational availability all led women (and their husbands) to have fewer children, with an average under 2. In other words cities would not have been able to reproduce themselves, and would have shrunk without inward migration.

  2. China has backed itself into a tight spot here, and I believe that it began with Chairman Mao’s policies. Encouraging a rapid growth in population has created a demographic crisis, and the full effects are beginning to come about. The economy is beginning to slow down, and that will only continue as the largest group of working Chinese move towards their elderly years. The population is rapidly aging, creating an inverted population pyramid. This is going to be a great burden on the Chinese economy in the coming years.

    • I agree that China is going to face great economic burden in the coming years as a result of the one child policy. While the work force shrinks, the demand for social security is going to increase. In 2015, the workforce decreased by 4.87 million. In 2014, social security spending accounted for 20% of government spending at 2.6 trillion yuan. This spending will have to continue to increase to support the expected population of 400 million in 2035. The demographic imbalance is clearly going to be an issue for the Chinese economy in the coming years.


      • This is not dissimilar to the problem in the United States, where an enormous amount is going towards the aging baby boomers’ social security payouts, while the amount paying into the system is decreasing.

        Beyond this issue, however, I believe the output of the economy will not suffer as greatly as it may seem. I say this because technology is constantly improving to the point that machines are replacing many laborers, effectively reducing the number of people required to produce the same amount of output.

        For example, we were discussing mountain top removal in my environmental economics class with Professor Casey. What used to previously take perhaps even 1000 human laborers now takes one and a heavy-duty machine. Of course we may not see this specific change in China, but similar technological improvements may reduce the need for a growing workforce as we move further into a developed Chinese economy.

        • Be careful in assuming that retirement systems can’t handle the baby boomers, in the US or in China. Yes, an adjustment in social security taxes may be needed (depending on economic growth), but the change need not be very big. You have to actually crunch the numbers…

  3. I think not only will this have China facing a great economic burden but require more advanced family planning across each region. Its a new age from having as many kids as you can knowing that some of them won’t make it and being forced to only have one child.

  4. What’s interesting is that after analyzing this policy with my other friends, we found it might have more effect than just reducing labor force. Truth is, even after the policy of rare, fewer, later came out, people are not actually stopped from having children. For people grow up in the city, who are wealthy enough to support themselves, they can pay fines if they actually want more children. For those who’s in the countryside, the implement of this policy is hard, since most villagers don’t have a Hukou, and they may never need one. Therefore, the labor force, those villagers who would do all the agriculture work are still increasing, just not expanding crazily like in the Mao’s time.

  5. Low fertility is a common problem in many countries across the world. As Mr. Miller mentioned in our video chat, the United States will soon switch from trying to reduce or contain immigration to vying for immigration to increase an undersized labor force. Countries all across the world, including China, will begin to attempt to streamline the process to make immigration easier. This prediction is in complete contrast to many of the policies proposed by politicians.

    • The current mentality of xenophobia in the US is indeed very startling. This, combined with decreasing fertility, is sure to cause a problem once the baby boomers retire. But although Mr. Miller argues that the political rhetoric will change to encourage immigration, I don’t know how quickly that can possibly happen in the US. Today, voters and politicians are hard-set in their parties’ ideologies. For Republicans to do a 180 on immigration policy would take a very long time.

  6. Is low fertility a “problem” or merely a “challenge” in that societies have not had to cope with such shifts in the past, so that policymakers don’t know what their options are?

    In addition, would China be in better shape today if fertility had NOT fallen? I think it’s clear the answer is NO, China would be worse off today (and in the future).

    • Economically, it seems one option of coping with low fertility is incentivizing births. If policy allows a women to derive further benefit from having an additional child, then she may indeed have one. Of course, finding the right incentive is a tricky task, but if fertility were to pose such a serious problem, then the government would determine a way to combat the issue.

      In reality, however, the economic approach to understanding the problem may not be as useful as it seems. It’s hard to convince women to go through such a monumental and emotional event purely by adding economic incentive.