Tuesday, December 21, 2010

One-Child Policy Revisited

Today an article on the New York Times discussed a report about the one-child policy in China and it's 30 year anniversary.

The report stated that many human rights abuses continue to occur surrounding this restrictive policy, including forced sterilizations and abortions, and other coercive family planning tactics such as heavy fines and threats of job loss. Most of these abuses take place in the countryside; therefore, they are more "out of the public eye" or at least the eye of the media. Poorer families suffer the most from this policy, not only because they lack the finances to pay the fines or fly their wives overseas to give birth, but also because they would benefit from having the economic support that multiple children could provide.

Authorities claim that they have prevented 400 million births over 30 years, a population 130% the size of the United States. While I agree that those additional individuals probably would have caused overcrowding and economic problems in the country (it is difficult to imagine China with any more people than it already has), it is hard to weigh the consequences against the current situation. I previously wrote about the negative effects in this post.

The Chinese government should change the incentive structures in society if it wants to keep population growth at a minimum in a voluntary and effective manner. Right now, human rights are being violated and there may be many children that are hidden or unregistered. Maybe if there was more public financial support for the elderly, couples would not feel insecure with only one child, and the child would not be too burdened with the care of two parents.

One thing needs to change - the uneven application of the policy in different areas of China and towards people of different social classes. I am not referring to the special cases of ethnic minorities, but the arbitrariness and corruption of local officials. According to the article, the budget from fines collected from the violation of the policy sometimes goes to "feed an entrenched bureaucracy." It will be very politically difficult to change this situation.

How do you feel about the one-child policy?


  1. Hey Molly, I was wondering if you could explain guanxi in one of your posts. I read that everything in China is run through guanxi, but I'm having difficulty picturing this.

  2. Yes, definitely! Thanks for reading.