China’s one child policy – fading out?

12 Feb

The controversial one child policy introduced in China in 1979 to control the rapidly increasing population is now under pressure to stop, and for a two child policy to be introduced. The one child policy is being phased out due to the ageing population having seriously problematic effects for both the economy, and the labour force. There are labour shortages, with not enough young workers able to replace the elderly leaving the workforce, and it is estimated that by 2025, the labour force will start to decline by 10 million per year. The elderly population are also providing strain on the nation’s welfare system, seeing as it is struggling with the numbers of elderly needing care. China is the fastest aging place on earth, with these issues now becoming globally recognised.

Furthermore, there are skewed gender ratios, with 118 men being available to 100 women, providing issues for marriage, with excessive volumes of single elderly men. Moral pressure is also being taken into account especially in regards to sex selective abortions, with increasing pressure being placed on China’s leaders to put an end to this policy. The risks for China should they not relieve this policy include being overtaken by India economically, and becoming destination to numerous volumes of international migrants. The upcoming generation are named ‘little emperors’ due to them being unnecessarily spoilt as single children, furthering the pressure to lift this policy.  



4 Responses to “China’s one child policy – fading out?”

  1. J howard February 12, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    Although it is common for the average age of a country to increase as it develops, because people live longer and have fewer children. In China the one-child policy has triggered a rapid decline in the birth rate meaning the population has aged far more rapidly. China has taken just 20 years to reach an age profile that took Britain or France 60 or 70 years.
    As mentioned the burden on welfare is huge, across China fewer than 2% of the elderly will find a place in a state nursing home, and most cannot afford private care meaning that the one child policy doesn’t only have economic effects but also social.
    Another problem is with that with China being the most populated country in the world how will the world which is already strained environment and has a lack of resources be affected by a more rapidly increasing Chinese and world population.

  2. ja11g12 February 13, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    Not only does it lead to an ageing population but it has also lead to what has become known as the 2-4-1 problem, where there is 4 grandparents, 2 parents and only 1 child to support all 7 of them. For the wealthier and rapidly growing middle classes this is not so much of a problem as most of these will be able to afford to care for them. However, there is large income inequality within China, so not all will be able to cope in the same way. Those lower down on the income scale will struggle to care for the elderly within their family and then that’s where the problems begin. The One Child Policy’s effects are worse for those with the lowest income.

    • ja11g12 February 13, 2013 at 10:32 am #

      I meant 4-2-1 problem, I made a mistake whilst typing it.

  3. timhaythorne February 26, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    With regards to your point about policy is being phased out due the “seriously problematic effects” for the economy, I would have to disagree.

    Although China is classically regarded as having a predominantly labour-intensive economy, it has made serious adaptations over the last few decades to suit the one child policy, and the policy may well have been one of contributory driving forces behind China’s substantial growth.

    China never really had an industrial revolution like the UK, but it has certainly had an industrial transition over recent times. Human capital (labour) is now being replaced with physical capital (basically machines!) across all industries as the labour force shrinks, with many going in to retirement.

    This is saving both time and money for domestic producers as they have less labour costs to bare, but one interesting outcome may lie in the future of FDI within China. As labour becomes harder to come by, we can expect to see wages rise for those who are still young enough to work and thereby detracting many multinational corporations from setting up plants in China to exploit cheap labour.

    However, whether they choose to still invest and adopt physical capital there really depends on the relative costs to both Chinese labour and foreign capital.

    This video should help illustrate the transition, as Euromonitor fully expect Chinese growth to be maintained in its switch to physical capital;

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