China’s “one child policy” is on the way out.
“China will loosen its decades-long one-child population policy, allowing couples to have two children if one of them is an only child, according to a key decision issued on Friday by the Communist Party of China,” reports the Chinese state Xinhua News Agency.
Richard Bush, the director of the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, tells Tech Insider that the change is not unexpected but is significant.
“The main motivation is the ageing population and the decline of the working age population,” Bush says. “The absolute number of young workers has already started to decline, so that creates the prospect of a really seriously high dependency of older people on younger people for things like pensions and care. In the old days, Chinese families shared the responsibilities of taking care of the older people, but if you have just one child, that’s quite a burden.”
Therein lies the cultural significance of the reversal. The one-child policy went against one of the main tenets of traditional China: that big families are good, that it’s vital to grow up with aunts and uncles and cousins.
“If you take the one child per family through two generations, the younger generation has no aunts, uncles, or cousins,” Bush explains.
China has relaxed the one-child policy in recent years — if the parents had no siblings, for example, then they could have two kids. It also became the case that you would be fined for having a second child, and as China developed economically, more and more people just paid the fine.
Still, just because families can have two kids doesn’t necessarily mean that they will. Many couples who are eligible to have two kids haven’t, citing the rising costs of raising children.
Before the reforms came in, during the Mao era, Chinese families were encouraged to have several children, in an attempt to boost China’s industrialisation and fill the ranks of the country’s military. As recently as the mid-1960s, the number of live births per woman hit nearly 6, an incredibly high fertility rate.
Here’s a look at China’s rapidly rising median age of population, which is driving the change.
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