China to Relax One-Child Policy
China boasts the largest number of people in the world with almost 20% of the population, and since the 1970s have tried to curb this amount with a “family planning policy”, which restricts each family to only one child each. Now, China’s government has said it will be making some long overdue reforms, one of which will be allowing couples to have two children if one of the parents is an only child.
Three days after the Third Plenum, a meeting of the top Communist Party officials, a 22,000-word document called “A Decision on Major Issues Concerning Comprehensive and Far-reaching Reforms” was released announcing the relaxation of the one-child policy, and outlined other changes that are hoped to be put in effect in the near future.
President Xi Jinping took office in March this year, and the changes he plans to make are thought to lead the way for his administration, of which is expected to last for the next ten years at least. His speech to the Third Plenum demonstrated his direct approach, speaking about education and housing, and the other concerns that many of the Chinese people have raised: “To solve all these problems, the key issue is reform.”
The one-child policy is one of those reforms. Initially introduced in 1979, it was thought that limiting each couple to having only a single child would help with economic, environmental and population problems in China, some of which were grossly affected by the sheer number of people. Any couples that broke the policy would face fines, the amount of which was based on their income and various other factors. Some families even opted for abortions if they found out they were pregnant with a girl because boys tend to be favoured in China.
There were already some exceptions in place regarding the policy. For example, if both parents are only children, they are allowed to have two children, and in the countryside, families are permitted to have another child if the first is a daughter.
Population professor at Nankai University Li Jianmin says that although there could be a rise in the population, it won’t be anything to worry about: “A majority of only-child parents are living in the cities, where the cost of raising a child is very high, and many young parents cannot afford to have a second child.”
Other reforms announced after the Third Plenum included scrapping the “re-education through labour” camps, which is where offenders can end up working for years without a trial. Getting rid of the camps is the start of working on improving human rights across the country, as well as reducing the number of crimes that are punishable by the death penalty.
With a gender ratio averaging at 118 boys to every 100 girls at the moment, let’s hope the family planning policy reforms make the difference China needs to make sure that 50 years down the line there are not millions of Chinese men struggling to get a wife because there simply aren’t enough Chinese women.