Wang Feng, a professor of social development at Fudan University has laid bare how much of a disaster China’s One Child Policy has been, over at Caixing.
As a quick background, the One Child Policy was introduced back in 1979, in response to concerns that China’s population was growing too fast. Now they have the opposite problem and fixing it will be far more difficult than the first.
Despite some loosening of the policy, restrictions still affect about 63% of the population and have created an estimated 104 million single children. 2010 is the year that the cracks start to show:
In terms of the country’s policy on population control, 2010 will be a crucial year because of three key factors. First, the consistently low birth rate since the 1990s will cause a noticeable contraction in newly available labour. The section of the population between 20 and 24 years of age will decrease sharply from 125 million in 2010 to just 68 million in 2020, a 50 per cent decline in only 10 years.
Second, the government will soon initiate a new nationwide census. This survey will once again confirm that China’s birth rate is extremely low and the population is gradually getting older. (One reason: Chinese life expectancy is getting longer, increasing 16 per cent from 62 years in 1970 to 73 in 2007.)
Third, 2010 is the 30th anniversary of the first significant implementation of the One Child Policy. Calls for change will become more intense, and policymakers will face more and more pressure to reform population policies.
It’s great that the voices for change are starting to rumble, but here’s what makes the problem simply hopeless — even if China started to fix it now, by allowing more births per family, it could take a hundred years to fix:
According to demographic researchers, Chinese couples have an average of only 1.5 children, which is well below the replacement rate of 2.1. That means the population will inevitably begin declining in the near future. The impact will be huge, all but unavoidable and may take a century to reverse.