Demographic Issues in China

chinese-popThere are some interesting trends going on in China. For a country that has had the one child per couple law for about 30 years now, it may be moving toward a time when they don’t need this kind of law anymore. LA Times journalist David Pierson explains…

“Economic and social pressures are loosening the filial obligations that have long bound Chinese society.” A growing number of Chinese men and women are deciding they don’t want kids. While parenthood is being seen more as a choice, it is still very frowned upon and is definitely not an “accepted” choice.

And more couples who do think they want kids are delaying having them. Why? Seems mostly it has to do with economic concerns. There is a high cost of living that trickles down to high costs associated with raising kids, even for couples with very good incomes. Other couples have concerns about bringing their child into a country that has had its share of problems, from housing bubbles to food safety issues. As a Chinese man in his 30s named Chu puts it, “You don’t know what kind of country the kid is going to grow up in”…”Only when you have lots of money will everything be alright.”

The population control law has also created a unique situation in which more men will not have any children. Why—because they won’t be able to find a female partner to hook up with. The one child law, and the “cultural preference” for boys (don’t get me started on that) has left the country with “alarming gender imbalance” –there are 118 men for every 100 women. With this kind of situation, when it comes to marriage, more women can afford to have high expectations and say they don’t want to compromise.

With the effects of the population control laws and people’s growing choice to have fewer or no children, some demographers have concerns about the country’s population turning negative in the coming decades.

To this I scratch my head. The country has 1.3 billion people. Would it be so bad if this number reduced? Some population experts say that reducing births is exactly what has to happen if we are ever to even come remotely close to living on a planet with a sustainable population.

Some believe the population control laws should be relaxed. I say work on eliminating the social and cultural prejudice of not having kids instead.  This needs to happen, not just in China, but in every country. It would help not just population problems, but work toward a world that truly has full reproductive freedom.  And if you do want the one child, the prejudice that boys are the preferred choice needs to stop!

Thoughts on the situation in China?

4 thoughts on “Demographic Issues in China

  1. I was never a fan of the “one child policy” for a few reasons. Number 1, like you said, I believe in full reproductive freedom, and number 2 (also like you said), the bias towards boys which sends a message that being a girl is somehow a mistake!

    However, I find it interesting how so many Chinese nowadays no longer consider children as important to a successful and meaningful life. The centuries old filial piety and Confucian traditions certainly were pro-natalist. And this trend is not just in China, but also in South Korea and Japan. The situation concerning modern women in East Asia today is a subject of great interest to me. From my observation the rise of childfree couples and singles in Asia appears, for now, to still be mostly circumstantial. But I’m sure the number of voluntary CF will rise in the future, and from this article, that does appear to be the case.

    1. Hi Manos, I find the situation with modern women in East Asia very interesting too. There are those that think that the solution to booming population is to educate the women. Educated women will have fewer children. On a recent segment on Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square, he had guests on talking about what happens when women get educated.. One example–with non-profits that give micro loans, they are finding that women are way more reliable in repaying the loans. They start and run the businesses. They include the husband in the business, but she manages the money. The business does well, the family has the goal of sending their daughters to school, college, etc. I think this is one way to reduce population and bring women to more of equal status in the world, but don’t think it is the only way we are going to be able to leave a sustainable population for generations to come…..just some morning musings~

  2. A little fact to throw out, the Japanese have become so concerned about their population that they’ve actually invented a word for it — “shoshika”. Which loosely translates to “society without children.” While many experts have stated that population decline might be a good thing for Japan, there still is a sense of “panic” nonetheless, and I wonder if China is feeling that panic as well, even though the population is as large as it is.

  3. It seems like in conversations about China’s one-child policy, no one really wants to discuss why the policy was implemented. In our pronatalist world, we gloss over why, exactly, fewer people were necessary. (I admit I have only a vague understanding of the reasons behind the policy.) This policy was terrible- it’s not a choice gov’t should make. But, we forget that governments often try to get people to have more children! I wonder what China’s population structure would be if the policy had never been. Maybe lots of people would be forgoing children now, but have even less choice because all the issues they see would be exacerbated with a higher population.

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