China’s One Child policy is a policy that the Chinese government introduced in 1979 to try and solve the problem of overpopulation. It’s main purpose was to make sure that China could support its large population with facilities such as healthcare, education, housing, good jobs and most importantly, food. The aim was to reduce poverty and to improve overall quality of life for the people.
More broadly speaking it was also designed to increase capital per worker and output per worker, thus increasing economic growth. Furthermore by reducing the dependency ratio, poverty would decrease and living standards would rise.
Research, spanning two decades from 1978 to 1998 and covering 28 Chinese provinces, found that the lower the birth rate, the faster the economic growth. The annual growth rate of the real per capital income during this period was as high as 8.1 percent. At the same time, the birth rate was very low—at only 2 percent.
The Communist Party claims it has saved 400m births with the one-child policy; many demographers put the number at more like 100m, as the birthrate was beginning a sharp decline even before the policy went into effect in 1980.
This demographic fact has lead to the one-child policy being relaxed due to the fact that China’s fertility rate of 1.5 to 1.6 children per woman is below the replacement rate (of about 2.1), and the fertility rates in the biggest Chinese cities are among the lowest in the world at well below 1.0. The demographic costs are becoming painfully obvious. China’s labour pool declined in 2012 (by 3.45m) for the first time in almost 50 years. This has led to a different population fear than Malthus imagined: a quickly aging society with too few young people to support their parents and grandparents.
Perhaps Chinese authorities were right to implement the policy quickly disband the growing poverty and inequality, but the argument then become that the policy should have been relaxed much earlier to prevent this demographic problem. Moreover it is advisable that the policy should perhaps be changed to a two-child policy to ensure that the benefits to society are still valid. Indeed research suggests that the monetary cost of having an extra child in China, private cost, is much greater than the value many couples put on the benefit. Thus it seems that China’s continuing fear is unfounded