Anti-natal Population policy of China
China is the world’s most populous country. With more than 1.3 billion people in 2014, China represents 20% of the world’s population (1 in 5 people on the planet is a resident of China). Overpopulation can lead to degradation of land, pollution and poor standard of living.
Defining the problem: Overpopulation occurs when there are too many people relative to resource and technology. It is the situation of having large numbers of people with too few resources over too little space under certain technological set up. Human overpopulation occurs if the number of people exceeds the carrying capacity of the region and is characterized by low income, poverty, poor living condition and high level of emigration and low standard of living.
There are four major factors that contributed to overpopulation in China
- Social and cultural factor- desire to have son, some rituals are only performed by the son.
- Economical issues- in rural areas children are needed to help in the farm operation and boys are preferred for farm work.
- Environmental and historical reasons- historically due to poor medical infrastructure and environmental condition (china had frequent floods and droughts), China had low survival rate of the infants (high infant mortality). In 1959-62 floods and droughts killed 20 million people through disease and starvation. During 1960s government encouraged large families to make china stronger. Average fertility in 1963 was 5.8 children per women and by 1965 birth rates reached 40 per 1000.
- Security problems- children will look after their parents when they are old
Unequal distribution of population in China
Almost half of all Chinese live in urban areas today, and the number is only expected to grow in the coming decades. According to the predictions, it’s likely that almost 70% of Chinese will live in urban areas by 2035. Most of them are concentrated in the east of China, often in coastal cities. It’s not surprising that there are a staggering 90 cities in China (defined as an urban area) with a population of more than 1 million people.
Since 1949 Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has ruled china and showed little interest to control population growth rather population growth was perceived as a tool to propagate communist ideologies. Between 1960-1970s after the great flood and drought in 1959-62, Chinese leader Mao Zedong encouraged his people to have large families. He believed more people means stronger china specially if war broke out with USA, more people would ensure victory.
By 1970s huge population increase created treat to economic growth as not enough food, jobs and services were available to cope with the rapidly increasing population.
A drastic and urgent solution was needed and china‘s one family, one child policy was launched in 1979. However, this stricter requirement was then applied unevenly across the country among the provinces, by 1980 the central government sought to standardize the one-child policy nationwide under the new pragmatic leadership headed by Deng Xiaoping after the death of Mao Zedong.
The original policy has been altered several times. However in general it includes the following elements-
Government encouraged a later age for marriages (Male-22 years, Female-20 years) and couples had to apply to the government for the right to start a family.
Couples were encouraged to have only one child through number of means1. 5 to 10% salary bonus for limiting to one child2. Free education and health care for only one child
3. Free contraceptive and offering financial incentives and preferential employment opportunities for those who comply.
Couples were penalized for having more than one child
- Huge fines were imposed during 1980s on those who violated the policy. The fine varied from US$ 400 to US$ 14000 depending on the region- this can be a year‘s salary for many workers
- 10% salary reduction for having second child
- No extra space allocation for second child
- At times (notably in early 1980s), invoking stronger measures such as forced abortions and sterilizations
- Some ethnic minority group (8% of the population) were allowed to have more than one child
- Han Chinese (the majority ethnic group) parents whose firstborn was handicapped were allowed to have more than one child
- In some rural areas were boys were needed for farm operation, second child was allowed if the first was a girl.
Consequences of the one child policy
The policy was largely successful to reduce population growth
- Population growth is reduced from 2.4% in 1980s to 1% in 2000.
- Average fertility reduced to 1.7 children per woman in 2006 from 5.8 children per woman during 1963. The scheme has proved so successful that the birth rate per woman has fallen below the replenishment rate of 2.1 children per woman that is needed to maintain the level of population.
- Better educated generation and skilled work force by providing free education and health care. Reduction in urban poverty
Adverse social impact of the one child policy
- Chinese culture and tradition is based around a large family, with male offspring being particularly important as sons inherit the family name and property and are responsible for the care of elderly parents. Male children have been preferred particularly in rural areas for farm labour. When most families were restricted to one child, having a girl became highly undesirable, resulting in a rise in female foeticide or feticide (abortions of female fetuses, made possible after ultrasound sex determination became available), increases in the number of female children who were placed in orphanages or were abandoned and even infanticide of baby girls. Sex-selective abortion and in discrimination in care practices for girls led to higher female mortality. Over time, the gap widened between the number of males and females and there were fewer females available for marriage.
- Men divorced their wives if a girl is born so that they can try again for a boy with a new wife.
- Women were under pressure to abort second pregnancies.
- New born girls have been abandoned, killed or parked with childless relatives or even sold to baby traffickers