Sunday, February 10, 2013

China’s One-Child Policy: Gender Gap, Loopholes, and the Future

           When scanning the Asia-Pacific section of the New York Times, more often than not the articles are focused on China and its booming economy and population. China currently hosts the largest population in the world, with an estimate of 1.3 billion people living within its borders. But with a recent birthrate decline that puts it at one of the lowest in the world, one article asks, “Will China have to abandon its One-Child Policy?”

            The One-Child Policy was established in the late 70’s and many experts estimate that it has prevented between 300-500 million births: a significant amount considering that is enough unborn children to repopulate the United States. The Chinese government cites the economic, social, and environmental benefits of a controlled population, while various humanitarian organizations decry the rise in abortions of female fetuses that has led many cities to make it illegal for doctors to reveal the gender of a baby until it has reached the point of viability. In a society where it is a son’s duty to take care of his aging parents, most Chinese parents view it as an economic hardship to have a daughter. 

            The One-Child Policy is not as all encompassing as most people think. Many families in rural areas are allowed to have multiple children thanks to the demand for extra labor on small family-run farms and a higher infant mortality rate as a result of fewer modern medical facilities. Additionally, parents who themselves are both only children are allowed to have two children if they so choose. Families who have the finances and desire simply bypass the One-Child Policy by taking the hefty fine that comes with having additional children.

            In a world where countries like Japan and Germany are trying to incentivize couples to have more children to support quickly aging populations, the long-term effects of China’s unorthodox method of family planning through the legal system are hard to foresee. In fact, when I taught in China many of my students came from rural families and I was surprised to hear that most of them had already had one or more siblings. However, when I asked them how they felt about the One-Child Policy their overwhelming response was positive. When asked why they agree with it most of them simply stated, “China is too crowded.”

No comments:

Post a Comment