Sec­ond-child pol­icy will re­store so­cial bal­ance

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

The change in the fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy, which al­lows cou­ples across China to have two chil­dren, is one of the big­gest pol­icy de­vel­op­ments in the past five years. The com­pre­hen­sive re­forms, which in­cludes the eas­ing of the one-child pol­icy, were un­veiled at the Third Plenum of the 18th Com­mu­nist Party of China Cen­tral Com­mit­tee in 2013.

The one-child pol­icy was im­ple­mented in the late 1970s to check the rise in China’s pop­u­la­tion. And the de­ci­sion to ease it shows the wis­dom and spirit of the Party with Xi Jin­ping as the core to over­come the in­creas­ingly se­vere de­mo­graphic chal­lenge the coun­try faces to­day.

The low fer­til­ity rate un­der the one-child pol­icy be­came the “de­mo­graphic new nor­mal”, which to­day is not con­ducive to build­ing a har­mo­nious so­ci­ety.

The fifth cen­sus in 2000 showed that China’s fer­til­ity rate was 1.22, which fur­ther de­clined to 1.18 in the sixth cen­sus in 2010. Among the chal­lenges brought about by the low fer­til­ity rate are the shrink­ing work­ing-age pop­u­la­tion and a rapidly ag­ing so­ci­ety. And it’s chal­lenges such as these the sec­ond-child pol­icy can help over­come, al­beit grad­u­ally, and re­store the de­mo­graphic bal­ance in the coun­try. But the sec­ond-child pol­icy will take about a cou­ple of decades to solve the prob­lems of work­force short­age and ris­ing ag­ing pop­u­la­tion.

The sec­ond­child pol­icy will also fa­cil­i­tate the devel­op­ment of a har­mo­nious so­ci­ety, and en­sure lon­glast­ing sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity of China. At the macro level, the sec­ond-child pol­icy will help im­prove the coun­try’s un­bal­anced de­mo­graph­ics, strik­ing a bal­ance be­tween work­ing-age and ag­ing pop­u­la­tions.

How­ever, the suc­cess of the pol­icy will de­pend on the per­cent­age of cou­ples hav­ing two chil­dren.

De­mog­ra­phers gen­er­ally as­sume that al­low­ing all fam­i­lies to have two chil­dren helps ease the pres­sure of ag­ing pop­u­la­tion on so­ci­ety as a whole. But it can­not stem the rise of ag­ing pop­u­la­tion in terms of num­bers. And it may not nec­es­sar­ily ar­rest the de­cline in the la­bor force. Which means the ben­e­fits of al­low­ing all fam­i­lies to have two chil­dren is real but its ef­fects could be lim­ited, be­cause it is a re­me­dial mea­sure, not a cat­a­lyst to a fun­da­men­tal de­mo­graphic change.

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures, 17.5 mil­lion new­borns were reg­is­tered in China last year — or about 1 mil­lion more than in 2015, which was far less than ex­pected. Al­though de­mog­ra­phers have pre­dicted a small baby boom this year, we should not ex­pect the ac­tual num­ber of new- borns to be very high com­pared with pre­vi­ous years be­cause of many cou­ples’ re­luc­tance to have two chil­dren ow­ing to cer­tain eco­nomic and so­cial fac­tors.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent All-China Women’s Fed­er­a­tion sur­vey, 53.3 per­cent of the re­spon­dents said they don’t want to have two chil­dren, with 26.2 per­cent say­ing they haven’t yet de­cided whether to have two chil­dren. Only 20.5 per­cent of the re­spon­dents said they have de­cided to have two chil­dren. With more than half of the child­bear­ing cou­ples de­cid­ing not to have two chil­dren, how can we have a baby boom?

Since de­mo­graph­ics directly in­flu­ence so­cial and eco­nomic devel­op­ment, China should pay greater at­ten­tion to the chal­lenge of ag­ing pop­u­la­tion in the com­ing decade. And a good way of meet­ing the chal­lenge is to help in­crease the la­bor force, which can be done by en­cour­ag­ing cou­ples to have two chil­dren, by im­ple­ment­ing fa­vor­able so­cial poli­cies, im­prov­ing the public ser­vice sys­tem and re­duc­ing the child­bear­ing

and ed­u­ca­tion costs.

The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor at the Pop­u­la­tion Re­search In­sti­tute of Pek­ing Univer­sity.

CAI MENG / CHINA DAILY

Mu Guang­zong

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