China One Child Policy Social Research Paper

  • Length: 7 pages
  • Sources: 10
  • Subject: Family and Marriage
  • Type: Research Paper
  • Paper: #43100147

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Several factors should be considered before the restrictions are lessened. The relaxation of the policy will only be considered if there is an ample amount of evidence showing that low fertility rates will be sustained. Current studies show that China is transitioning into a small family culture. In 30 pilot counties the policy has been lifted, allowing couples to choose their family size (Poston, 2002, p333-47).

However, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Survey also showed that in urban areas where the one child policy is strictly enforced, 43% of women still preferred two children. Another aspect which needs to be considered is that laws from the past may not be appropriate for the present. During the past 25 years China has drastically changed their socioeconomic infrastructure. (Winckler, 2002, p379-418)

To many the one child policy seems obsolete, because of the immense progress gained from wealth and globalization. Due to the increased wealth and freedom of movement, the government is having a harder time enforcing the policy. The wealthier families are not deterred by economic disincentives. So past policy regulations are not as effective in controlling family planning. (Wang, 2005, p117-28)

Also there are many negative aspects associated with continuing the strict policy. These aspects include high sex ratios, aging population, marital discrepancies, inadequate pension coverage, and unapproved pregnant women not seeking medical care. Although these stringent policies are slowing down the population growth to gain benefits in the economic world, it is adversely affecting other facets of China's infrastructure. The two child policy was analyzed in 1985 by John Bongaarts and Susan Greenhalgh in their study, "An Alternative to the One Child Policy in China." (Winckler, 2002, p379-418)

The two child policy entailed two elements: 1) a stop at two rules and 2) a minimum age of at least 25 for the first birth, combined with a spacing interval of several years in between the first and second birth. These findings have crucial implications for China's population policy because they permit resolution of the conflict between the government objective of low fertility, which is needed to control population size, and individual desires for at least two children. (Short and Zhai, 1998, p373-88)

In fact, with the additional requirement of a delay in childbearing, a successful stop-at-two policy can be as effective in curbing population growth as a successful one child policy (Poston, 2002, p333-47). The two child policy could alleviate societal discrepancies and provide a more balanced age sex structure to China's population. (Poston, 2002, p333-47)

Some still believe that relaxing the strict policies now, will jeopardize the progress made and keeping the population below 1.4 billion by 2010 will not be met. The two child policy would be more appealing to the Chinese population than the one child policy because it provides more options for the people. (White, 2000, p74-78)

Critical analysis

The one child policy is harder to implement because it does not give families much freedom in their options for child birth. Under the two child program, couples would have the choice of having two children, subject to the stipulated timing restrictions, or having a single at any time (Poston, 2002, p333-47). Also the one child policy has difficulty being implemented properly due to the inability of higher cadres to enforce compliance with the lower cadres who have the direct contact with the families.

Although the two child policy may not mitigate these issues between administrative officials, it does move some freedom to the families to choose their offspring timing, and is more lax so will not be as difficult to implement. Also this approach may encourage more families to be more compliant and not place pressure upon local cadres to bear more children. Therefore local cadres will be able to satisfy the higher levels of government. Also the two child policy may reduce economic costs; if this policy is preferred then policymakers might be able to reduce incentives for compliance with the policy.

Indications are that the two children, delayed fertility policy would find much more acceptance among the population than the current policy (Hardee, 2003, p68-76). Other costs of enforcement, such as expenses for ideological work, monitoring of births and their timing, contraceptives and medical services, would probably be the same under the one child policy (Lavely and Freedman, 1990, p89-116). The one child policy does not endorse sexual inequality, but is a byproduct of the policy that has adverse effects for women, leading to cases of female infanticide, abuse of wives, child abuse, and an unbalanced sex ratio. Although, gender inequality is incorporated by allowing a second child if the first is a daughter. The two child policy would not diminish the preference for a son, but may reduce the negative pressure placed on women to have a male offspring for their first birth. Also by enforcing a uniform policy in all areas of the country, it would be easier for political officials to align policy with ideology across the country. (Liu et al. 2000, p331-52)

Another implication that arises if the one child policy is perpetuated for several successive generations is that all children will be without siblings and they would have no nieces or nephews. These children's children would then be without uncles or aunts and no cousins. On the other hand, if every couple is allowed two children, then most children would have a brother or sister. (Winckler, 2002, p379-418)

As they get older, they will have nieces and nephews and then their children will have aunts or uncles. This would create a larger family support system to care for the elderly and divert costs with more family members. The one child policy may induce negative effects that jeopardize a families' ability to care for its elderly, reduce its productive potential, and degrade the families' sense of continuity and value to their family name. (Wang, 2005, p117-28)

A two child policy therefore implies a family and kin structure that is very different from the one that would be created under a one child policy and would help alleviate these discrepancies. The two child policy will create an atmosphere which supports a greater family support system for the care of their elders. As the proportion of China's elderly within the total population increases rapidly, unless the state can continue to relegate the support of the elderly to the family, the costs of social security will absorb growing chunks of public revenues and reduce the amount of state funds available for economic development (Greenhalgh 2003, p196-215)). The one child policy creates societal imbalances in the form of sex ratios and an increased elderly dependence ratio. As described above, these discrepancies are only perpetuated as long as the regulation is in place. In Figure 4, projections under the United Nations medium variant, total fertility rates yield an inverted pyramid by the year 2050. (Winckler, 2002, p379-418)

The sex ratios cause a surplus of males due to the Chinese mindset of favoring male babies. Also under the one child policy, as the population grows older, there will be a lower working population to take care of the elderly placing much of the burden on the government and families. (Greenhalgh 2003, p163-96) Furthermore, couples do not need to obtain permission to have their first child which diminishes the local birth quota requirement. If the local birth quota was exceeded, couples were forced to delay their pregnancy. These minute changes, with a small culture family mindset, have eased the passage for the government to gradually relax the one child policy. (Matthews and Victor, 2002, p606-32)


The objective of family planning in China is to control the population quantity and improve population quality. China has emphasized controlling the population quantity and now should transition in focusing on improving quality. Resources that were gained from the decrease in demographic growth should be reallocated in medical care and social security. (McElroy and Dennis, 2000, p389-92)

Although improving these sectors of society may be more of an arduous task, it must be done to attain a balance of population development. Without these changes, the main objective will not be achieved and the one child policy will be viewed as a degradation of human rights from the international standpoint. "The notions that people are somehow social, ecological and economic nuisances are a pernicious one, predisposing governments to treat their own citizens as a form of pestilence. Instead of trying to lift their poor out of poverty, governments instead try to reduce their numbers. Authentic economic development is neglected, human-rights abuses abound, and everyone's freedoms are put at risk. "Population control encourages domestic tyranny of a very personal and deadly sort" (Short and Zhai, 1998, p377-87)

Although it has been criticized severely, the one child policy still needs time to be fully effective and to attain the benefits from their economic success. The one child policy was never planned to be a permanent restriction on the Chinese society. (White,…

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