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Population policy

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.

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.

Historical Background
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.

Description of the One family, one child policy (1979 -2015): Policy Elements

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 child.

2. 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

  1. 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
  2. 10% salary reduction for having second child
  3. No extra space allocation for second child
  4. At times (notably in early 1980s), invoking stronger measures such as forced abortions and sterilizations


  1. Some ethnic minority group (8% of the population) were allowed to have more than one child
  2. Han Chinese (the majority ethnic group) parents whose firstborn was handicapped were allowed to have more than one child
  3. In some rural areas were boys were needed for farm operation, second child was allowed if the first was a girl.


Impacts/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

Little emperor syndrome
When all the attention from the parents is given to their only child, spoiling their child, making the child believe that he is important.Parents think their children are the center of the universe and provide everything to satisfy them. This attitude is rarely in rural area due to more children in a family. As a result children in the urban areas are growing up to be narrow minded, self-centered and incapable of accepting criticism and often tend to eat junk fast food and developing the problems like obesity . On the other hand, being the only one heir, there is more pressure on child to do well in their education to get a good job and take care of their old parents.

China now has an abnormal sex ratio- men will fail to find a wife
China has an abnormal sex ratio. Whereas in most countries more girls are born than boys, in China, the reverse is true. China’s sex ratio at birth was 108 males to every 100 females in the early 1980s; in 2010 it was 118.08 males to 100 females. In some provinces, such as Anhui, Jiangxi and Shaanxi, the sex ratio had soared to more than 130 males. It is not only a population problem, but also a grave social problem as many men will fail to find a wife.
The large “surplus” of males now reaching adulthood and concerns have been expressed that their lack of marriageability and consequent marginalization in society, may lead to antisocial behavior and violence, threatening social stability.

China‘s ageing population

  • The dramatic fertility decline and improved longevity over the past two decades are causing China’s population to age at one of the fastest rates ever recorded, accompanied by an increase in the prevalence of chronic disease and disability in the population.
  • Today, China is considered a middle-income nation by Western standards, and its rapid growth over the decades has pulled hundreds of millions of its citizens out of poverty. Much of China’s economic growth has been attributed to its abundant and cheap workforce. But, with the number of young Chinese falling and the number of elderly Chinese increasing, it is not certain whether China’s economy can continue to grow at the same rapid rate, and the Government is facing increasing calls to abandon its one child policy.

Abuse of human rights

  • Such policy can only be implemented by a strong authoritarian government, curbing citizen‘s free will and choices.
  • Selective abortion, forced and sterilizations, female feticide led to strong international criticism and violation of human rights.

Other existing policies to deal with the problem of over population in China

  • One Apartment Purchase per Family in urban areas to control uncontrolled urban growth.
  • New Car Lottery Policy to avoid congestion and pollution – Many cities like Beijing has imposed a quota on its new car license plates. Beijing introduced the vehicle license plate lottery system in 2011 to curb the growth rate of new automobiles.

Article Review:

Germany has reached its highest fertility rate since the country came back together at the end of the Cold War in 1990. But the Bundesrepublik still lags behind much of Europe. Read article from ‘The Local’ about the pro-natal policy implementation in Germany.

Impacts of China's One Child policy

Tax benefit for the parents


Kane P. The second billion: population and family planning in China. Ringwood: Penguin Books; 1987.

Zeng Y. Is fertility in China in 1992 far below replacement level? Pop Stud. 1996;50:27–34.

“East and Southeast Asia: China”. CIA World Factbook.

“The most surprising demographic crisis”. The Economist. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2013.…/anti_natal_policy_china

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