Home > Analysis, News > China Will Relax its One-Child Policy to Increase its Population Growth

China Will Relax its One-Child Policy to Increase its Population Growth

1986 one-child poster

1986 one-child poster

The on-going Third Plenary Session of 18th CPC Central Committee has handed down several important decisions recently.  One of them involves the relaxation of the one-child policy to spur China’s population growth.

Xinhua has a good report.  An excerpt is provided below:

BEIJING, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) — China will loosen its decades-long one-child population policy, allowing couples to have two children if one of them is an only child, according to a key decision issued on Friday by the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The [change in policy is part of China’s continual adjustments in policies] step by step to promote “long-term balanced development of the population in China,” ….

To ensure coordinated economic and social development, the population size for China should be kept at about 1.5 billion, said Guo, citing the results of a study sponsored by the State Council, China’s cabinet.

China should keep its total fertility rate at around 1.8, and the current rate is between 1.5 to 1.6, allowing the country to maneuver its population policy, according to Guo.

China’s family planning policy was first introduced in the late 1970s to rein in the surging population by limiting most urban couples to one child and most rural couples to two children, if the first child born was a girl.

One-child families are entitled to bonuses and other benefits. Official statistics show such families account for 37.5 percent of China’s more than 1.3 billion population.

The policy was later relaxed, with its current form stipulating that both parents must be only children if they are to have a second child.

Since its implementation, it is estimated the policy has resulted in a reduction of some 400 million people in China.

However, the policy has also been blamed for generating a number of social problems.

China’s labor force, at about 940 million, decreased by 3.45 million year on year in 2012, marking the first “absolute decrease.” The labor force is estimated to decrease by about 29 million over the current decade.

Meanwhile, the country’s growing elderly population aged 60 and over, which accounted for 14.3 percent of the total currently, is forecast to exceed one third of the population in 2050.

Gender imbalance is another side effect of the one-child policy. Chinese parents’ preference for sons led to the abortion of female foetuses due to the policy.

About 118 boys are born for every 100 girls in 2012, higher than the normal ratio of 103 to 107 boys for every 100 girls. Millions of Chinese men will be unable to find wives in 2030.

Economists say the one-child policy is also a cause for the high savings rate among Chinese people.

“The change in the family planning policy will certainly affect China’s one-child generation — some of whom have already become parents. It will help them enjoy a better future,” wrote an Internet user called herself “shanma123.”

While the news is important and interesting in and of itself, it also contains some good context of the one-child policy, which is often misunderstood in the West.

It is interesting to note, for example, that while the policy applies throughout the nation, it is applicable only to part of the population.  For example, as the article mentioned, the one-child policy is applicable mainly to urban families, not rural families (and China has been – still is, though it is rapidly changing – a predominantly rural country throughout the periods when the one-child policy is in force).  

And if both parents are the single child in their respective families, they are also exempt from the one-child rule (the current policy will relax that to allow families to be exempt from the one-child rule if just one of the parents is born to a single-child family).  Further, as we’ve discussed many times here, if one of the parents is deemed an “ethnic minority,” the policy also doesn’t apply.

Not surprisingly, after almost half a century of the one-child policy, only 37.5 percent of China’s more than 1.3 billion people today are born to single-child families.    

Besides providing a brief background of the policy, the article also provides a short and honest take of the negative effects of the policy.  The one-child policy is neither a draconian tool of an out-of-touch authoritarian state, nor is it a panacea or silver bullet, but it is an integral part of the process by which China modernizes and revitalizes herself.  I am sure as China progresses, the policy will continue to be examined and tweaked periodically as circumstances demand.


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  1. November 16th, 2013 at 09:43 | #1

    As far as I can tell, the immediate change won’t be that dramatic. The original policy allows for a 2-child policy, IF both spouses were single childs. Now only one person in that couple has to be a single child.

    I imagine the next step (perhaps in a decade) is to simply institute a two-child policy across the board.

  2. Sleeper
    November 16th, 2013 at 10:00 | #2

    The tides turn again.

    My mother had been complaining the one child policy which made her not able to raise one more child (what’s worse is that she’s a public servant. The penalty of breaching one child policy for public servants /employees of state-owned enterprises are not only paying excessive fines but also being dismissed from their positions), while she had never expected me, the only child of the family, would be benefiting from the change of policy.

    Perhaps such change will make sense, but bigger problems will come if not implementing carefully. Recently China is suffering education and employment stress and hundreds of billions of yuan must be spent on building new schools, creating jobs, etc. Therefore population growth will make the day even harder. I hope the government has been well prepared for the change of policy.

  3. November 17th, 2013 at 10:49 | #3

    The West complains about the one child policy now. But in the 1950s and 60s, they were mongering fear about the China population time-bomb, as these TIME magazine covers show:

    ^Note the Chinese are portrayed as locusts

    ^”Overcrowded ship with millions of Chinese invading a port near you!”

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