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China: One Baby, Two Baby, Three Baby, Four!


A blueprint for reform was released today as Chinese leaders met for the fourth day of a major policy-making conference. Social and economic issues were high on the agenda, and changes to the country’s oppressive one-child policy appear to be forthcoming, the WSJ reports:

The document said China would significantly ease its one-child policy, allowing couples to have two children if one of the parents is an only child. Currently, Chinese couples are restricted to one child except under some circumstances, such as rural dwellers, pilot programs in a number of areas and among ethnic minorities.

Enacted in 1980, the policy has been lauded by officials for taming a surging population from a years-earlier baby boom. But economists say it risks eroding China’s competitive advantage, draining its labor pool of future workers as the population ages and puts a greater strain on China’s emerging social safety net.

China’s one-child policy has had a number of disastrous effects on the country’s economy and society. Elderly citizens often must rely on only one child, who is often thousands of miles away, for support. Frequently, young Chinese must support themselves, their own new families, and their aging parents. Country-wide, the lack of young people entering the workforce puts strain on China’s social programs like state pensions, welfare, and healthcare. And the one-child policy has also led to forced abortions and sterilizations, which are illegal.

Demography is a long-term issue, not a short-term one. The effects of China’s one-child policy will be reverberating for years to come. But today’s resolution is a good sign of more changes to come.

[Chinese baby photo courtesy of Getty Images]

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  • foobarista

    I’ll be impressed if they can pull this off. The one-child policy in China is like the “Drug War” in the US: there’s a vast, entrenched, and rather militarized bureaucracy whose livelihood depends on it, and it is still fairly popular – at least with people in cities. Changing it would gore lots of bureaucratic oxen and get rid of vast sources of corruption.

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