Overpopulation used to be China’s curse, a historical driver for famine and war. That is why the country’s technocrats have strived for years to keep the country’s birth rate under control.
But China’s changing course. The ruling Communist Party decided Thursday at its annual meeting to finally abolish its decades-long one-child policy.
The family planning restrictions will now be loosened to allow couple to have two children.
It’s all about economics. The one-child policy, which the government has said prevented 400 million births, is now being blamed for China’s shrinking labor pool as well as a dramatic gender imbalance that means millions of men will never find female partners.
Reuters reports that by around the middle of this century, one in every three Chinese is forecast to be over 60, with a dwindling proportion of working adults to support them. This also means fewer taxpayers to foot the bill for a social welfare system that will be bursting at the seams with old folks.
“It won’t have any impact on the issue of the aging society, but it will change the character of many young families,” said Wang Feng, a leading expert on demographic and social change in China.
The western media has focused for years on how the Chinese government has been punishing people who had more than one child with fines, forced abortions or sterilization. In reality, the one-child law was never enforced uniformly and seems to have applied most strictly in rural rather than urban areas.
But now that the law has changed, it might be too little too late. Many Chinese said they wouldn’t opt for the second child. Echoing a choice made by come couples in the US and other advanced countries, some say it’s just too expensive to raise a second child today.
State media said in January that about 30,000 families in Beijing, just 6.7% of those eligible, applied to have a second child. The Beijing government had said last year that it expected an extra 54,200 births annually as a result of the change in the rules, reported Reuters.
Having more babies is now politically correct.