On January 1st, all married mainland couples will be allowed to give birth to a second child. The decision, which was made in October, was motivated by China’s desire to fuel domestic consumer spending, increase the size of the nation’s workforce, as well as to mitigate the effects of its ageing population.
According to research, mainland China will no longer have the largest population in the world by 2025. Many think the change was motivated by fears that China would be unable to sustain its economic growth as its population ages.
However, many predict that this historic move is unlikely to lead to any immediate changes in the population. Citigroup predicts there will only be a five to 10 per cent increase in the birth rate.
A change in social norms and trends means that many couples do not wish to have a second child. When China relaxed its one-child policy in 2013, many couples were allowed to have a second child but decided against it. This is partially due to the high education and housing costs associated with having a second child, particularly in urban areas and cities such as Shanghai and Beijing. Critics say this policy will be insufficient in addressing many of China’s demographic and economic challenges.
The change is likely to be welcomed by human rights groups. Many saw China’s one-child policy as inhumane and cruel – a violation of the human right to reproduce. The policy also led to sex-selective abortions and infanticide, particularly in rural areas, due to a traditional preference for boys in Chinese culture.
The abolition of the decades-old one-child policy is possibly best described as “too little, too late”. China’s policymakers still have much to do in terms of addressing its ageing population and shrinking workforce.