Concerns over slow economic growth has forced China to relax the controversial “one-child” policy, allowing couples to have a second baby if either partner is an only child.
Reportedly, Chinese President Xi Jinping Friday announced a plethora of packages related to economic, social and legal reforms in decades, including a relaxation of the country’s “one-child” policy.
The high point of the new policy is the abolition of its much-criticized system of labor camps which permitted violators to be sent to labor camps for up to four years without trial.
The controversial one-child policy reportedly prevented millions of births but helped create an aging population that could constrict economic growth.
In the 1980s, the ruling Communist Party of China established a vast and powerful family-planning bureaucracy, with offices in every city, town and village, to enforce the one-child norm.
The Los Angeles Times mentions the 1980s when the so called “period police,” a term referred to health officials who would force female factory workers to show their stained sanitary napkins to allow them record their menstrual cycles and prevent unwanted pregnancies.
The unpopular law and controversial law, often brutally enforced through forced abortions, infanticide and involuntary sterilizations, slowed an unsustainable birth rate, but engendered shortage of working-age population who could take care and support the ageing population.
According to the Washington Times, “the one-child policy, one of history’s biggest experiments in state-mandated demographic engineering, reshaped Chinese society, with birth rates plunging from 4.77 children per woman in the early 1970s to 1.64 in 2011, according to estimates by the United Nations. It also contributed to the world’s most unbalanced sex ratio at birth, with boys far outnumbering girls.”
Since the introduction of the law in the 1980s, it has been repeatedly tweaked to insert a number of exceptions for minorities, rural families without boys and disabled children. Reportedly, the new shift is a major amendment of this kind.
According to demographers, the change in the one-child policy would allow about 10 million couples to have a second child. The current law permits families where both parents are only children to have a second baby.
The Los Angeles Times quoted Zhou Haiwang, an expert in population studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences:
"In the 1980s, when the one-child policy was implemented, it was needed to stop the rapid population growth and increase per-capita income. Now, 30 years later, it has achieved that goal. Now it is time to increase the fertility rate to benefit our society in the long term.”
Reportedly demographers do not necessarily expect a sudden surge in Chinese population because of the change in policy because large sections of the population were already exempted to have a second child under existing exceptions to the policy.