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China to Lift One-Child Policy?

In an effort to increase its faltering birthrate, Russia declared a National Day of Conception in 2007, offering any woman who gave birth exactly nine months later a refrigerator. Russia may have picked one of the more creative concepts for a fertility drive that we’ve seen, but it is not alone in looking to boost birthrates. Spurred by fears of a diminishing work force, China is now seriously debating whether to repeal its infamous “one-child policy.” The FT reports:

Last year, the working age population of China shrank for the first time, threatening a mainland economic miracle built upon a pool of surplus labour.

But even if it is only a matter of time before the policy disappears, no one is predicting exactly when change might come. “We have been waiting for the other shoe to drop for a long time already,” says Cai Yong, a demographic expert at the University of North Carolina.

Though there are some good indications that the Chinese government is considering loosening the policy, there have been no official statements to that effect. And even if it is repealed, the FT argues, the Chinese may be so conditioned that they would seldom act on this new freedom. (We, on the other hand, tend to believe that biology will trump conditioning.)

China’s young, most of whom are only children, will be hard pressed to support their aging parents and grandparents. For China to maintain its economic superiority, it will have to have a sufficient ratio of working to non-working citizens. Otherwise it risks becoming a much larger, less developed version of the aging welfares states of Western Europe.

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