The Numbers Game: Chinese Economics and the One-Child Policy

Image Courtesy of offbeatchina.com

China’s Communist Party leadership is shaking things up, again. This time, the world’s most populous country is reconsidering its one-child policy. Ever since 1979, China has enforced a one child per couple policy as a measure of population control in urban locations. According to a report issued by the Communist Party right after its four-day meeting in Beijing, China will revamp its policy to allow Chinese couples to have two children only if one of the parents is an only child.

This groundbreaking news comes at a time in which increased demands for change – both from Chinese citizens, but also from the international community – have characterized Communist Party policy. The cries for change have come in very diverse ways, whether calling for the market to define the amount of children each couple has or taking into consideration the brutality with which this policy has been enforced.

First off, China’s official census has warned that the working age population of the country has begun to decline after three decades of stunning economic growth. Consequently, important players in the economy have put a lot of pressure on political leaders to implement an altered policy before it becomes too late to sustain a generational shift.

Moreover, recent accounts of stories regarding the one-child policy have surrounded the media. CNN’s report The girl with no identity: Being a second child in China exposes a dismal account on how twenty-year old Li Xue has been deprived of essential services such as education and health care because Li’s parents did not have the means to pay the 5,000 yuan (about $820) that would allow for her registration as a newborn child.

The Chinese Communist Party is not only looking at changes to the one-child policy. As announced, the reforms are designed to carry out extensive economic and social changes at a time when world’s second largest economy is showing signs of weakness.

One of the most revolutionary reforms is the elimination of a controversial labor camp system. Other reforms include accelerating the convertibility of the capital account, the cancellation of residency restrictions in small cities and towns, the systematic integration of urban and rural safety and progress with the establishment of an environmental tax, among other measures. (For a detailed summary of the reforms, read this article on The Wall Street Journal: http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2013/11/15/china-to-ease-one-child-policy-abolish-labor-camps/)

It is good that China is implementing changes on controversial policies that have characterized the country – and its leaders – for years. However, it is not secret that these changes merely respond to the country’s rapidly changing demographics and the economic push for a strong and consistent working population.

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