China’s new population policy and its pessimistic prediction

The National People’s congress of People’s Republic of China approved a new population policy on December 27th 2015, which allows all couples to have two children starting from 2016. The aim of this new policy is to alleviate potential population crisis. The National Health and Family Planning Commission announced that the new policy would be implemented slowly to avoid creating a population peak.

In the past decade, demographers have been warning Chinese leaders that decreased birth rate would cause workforce shortage and hinder economic growth. China has the world’s largest population of 1.37 billion, but China’s working-age population (15-64) is shrinking. According to demographical forecast, in 2013 the number of people aged over 65 will increase by 85% and reach 243 million; this year, the number is 131 million.

Many demography scholars suggest, even though the new population policy may encourage 100 million couples to have a second child, there will not be a baby boom. For many Chinese couples, the cost of raising a child is a huge economic burden and many couples would prefer to have only one child. The previous policy that loosens one-child birth control did not bring about significant increase in newborn population.

The international Human Rights watch Amnesty International warns Chinese government that the new change is “not enough”. China scholar William Ni remarks that any couple of two children would still face the potential danger of forced abortion or forced birth control, it should not be the state’s right to interfere with how many child Chinese citizens would like to have.

In January 2014, the Chinese government announced that one-child policy would be loosened to allow families in which one of the parents is a single child in his or her family to have a second child. This policy change was regarded as the most significant relaxation of the One-Child policy, however in 2015 statistics show that the number of couples who took that opportunity to have a second child is much lower than expected. The official prediction expects to see 2 million newborn children after the relaxation of One-Child policy, however only 1 million qualified couples applied to have a second child, and the total number of qualified couples is 11 million.

Chinese government predicts that China would have the largest aging population in 15 years, more than 400 million Chinese would age over 60. Demographical study shows that aging population would create significant burden for healthcare and social services, and China would find it difficult to sustain continuous high economic growth. Professor Feng Wang from Fudan University suggests that China is already experiencing population crisis, when we look back in China’s modern history, we shall see that One-Child policy is the biggest mistake, it is neither unnecessary nor effective because China’s birth rate had already been slowing down in the 1980s.

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