China’s One Child Policy and implications for the future population

13 Feb

With the world facing many challenges at this current time such as climate change and a widening poverty gap, population pressure is often deemed to be one of the most pressing of these issues. Unlike many other countries who have attempted to implement forms of fertility control, China succeeded in creating a controversial yet arguably successful way of dealing with a massively expanding population…The One Child Policy. According to the UN, China’s population resided at 1.35 billion in 2011, 20% of the World’s total population and a vast different to the population of 563 million seen in 1950. What might the population have looked like without the One Child Policy in place?

There have been many attempts to evaluate what the population today might have been without the implementation of the One Child Policy in 1979; but with the unpredictable nature of population growth there have been a wide range of questionable estimates. However what is evident is that China’s population prior to 1979 was significantly unsustainable with several waves of severe famines causing many to die, particularly evident during Mao’s Great Leap Forward. Some argue these famines were partly deliberate in an attempt to force Communism upon China with many scholars suggesting more could have been done to prevent them but whether deliberate or not, there is clear evidence that population pressure was having a significant negative effect on resources.

Nevertheless, there is continued debate about the effects of the One Child Policy for the future of China’s population, especially as of December 2013 whereby restrictions on the policy have been partially lifted (BBC News Online). Although it reduced fertility to a more stable level and allowed China to focus more on sustainable development, there have been considerable criticisms of the policy – Has it done more damage than good?

Particularly in a demographic sense China will now face a new wave of challenges to contend with.  These include an ageing population within the next 50 years and a continued unequal sex ratio (Xiaofei Li, 2012). An ageing population means that there will be an incredibly unbalanced dependency ratio causing a momentous strain on the working population to support the elderly whilst an unequal sex ratio has raised issues of gender inequality and causes a long chain of issues as there are a lack of females for marriage. It has been predicted that by 2050 more than a quarter of the population will be over 65 (BBC news Online) – This will put pressure on the Chinese government to divert resources away from economic growth and instead towards supporting the ageing population, an unwanted impact caused by the One Child Policy.

However, the positive impact of the One Child Policy should not be underestimated and although many believe it is now time to relax the policy fully it should not be forgotten that it helped reduce the impacts that previous famines and resource strains have caused.


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