Two-child policy fundamental to population security
While 39 scholars jointly called for a comprehensive twochild policy, the family planning authorities’ think tank has ruled out any policy loosening this year. However, it is high time China reflected on the outcomes from its family planning policy in the past decades and accelerated its reform.
There are about 180 million one-child families in China and they face high risks. The number of families that will lose their only child is expected to exceed 10 million in future. A more family friendly population policy allowing more couples to have a second child would reduce the number of such tragedies.
Also the one-child family structure and relationships are unhealthy and have produced many social problems. For instance, a huge number of “empty nest” elderly face numerous challenges from the lack of support in their old age.
It’s of great significance that President Xi Jinping emphasized the importance of healthy families in his Lunar NewYear greetings.
Many low-income families have suffered for a long time from the poverty resulting from the huge fines and social maintenance fees collected because they have violated the family planning policy.
And, of course, it is fundamentally unfair to allow some families to have a second child while not permitting others.
Moreover, the long-term low fertility rate has led to an unsustainable population structure. Since 2012, the working age population has begun to decline. The loss of the working age population is about 2 to 3 million every year, which imposes rigid restrictions on sustainable economic growth. Also, there is a gender imbalance in favor of males, which may threaten social stability.
More seriously, China has already formed low fertility culture, and many young couples allowed a second child under the recent reform granting the right to couples where one of them is a single child have chosen not to have one because of the costs involved. Since 2000, China has fallen into the trap of “ultra low fertility” because of both its family planning policy and low fertility culture. In fact, the overall fertility rate is lower than 1.3, and China will face a labor shortage if this rate can’t be increased. China needs to worry about its low fertility rate rather than a population explosion, because a country’s population is a key part of its national strength. Population security should be the starting point for China’s population policy. The authorities should guarantee a strategic reserve of young people, labor and talents.
To reduce the cost of raising a child, which would encourage more couples to have a second child, the government should provide policy support such as paid maternity leave and low-cost medical treatment. Public facilities and services should also be improved in order to create an attractive social environment for a two-child policy. The author is a professor at the Population Research Institute of Peking University.