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China Population Crisis: New Two-Child Policy Fails To Yield Major Gains

Public Policy

Despite having the largest population of any country in the world, China isn’t having enough babies.

That’s the unspoken conclusion of a government plan, published Wednesday, which revealed that the relaxation of China’s one-child-only policy has so far failed to boost the country’s birth rate enough to avoid significant demographic challenges in the coming decades.

The easing of the one-child policy, which was amended in early 2016 to allow all Chinese families to have two children, helped push the number of births in the country to 17.86 million in 2016, an increase of 7.9 percent over 2015, according to state media reports citing China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission. The figure was the highest since 2000.

FROM OCT. 29, 2015: China to End Decades Old One-Child Policy as Population Ages2:01

Other data released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics recorded a slightly higher figure of 18.46 million births in 2016.

Despite the increase, China’s fertility rate remains below replacement level — at which a population naturally replenishes itself from one generation to the next — where it has languished for years, according to the National Population Development Plan 2016 – 2030, issued by China’s State Council, the country’s cabinet.

Despite state media trumpeting the increase as evidence of the two-child policy’s success, the increase in births is lower than the figure of 20 million for which authorities had hoped — and even that figure would not have allowed the country to sidestep the demographic train rolling toward it.

The report released Wednesday warns that China faces a turning point over the next 15 years, particularly between 2021 and 2030. The aging of the population will accelerate, increasing pressure on social security and public services. At the same time, the working-age population will shrink, damaging economic growth and reducing the tax income required to support the elderly.

The report predicted that a quarter of China’s population will be over 60 in 2030, compared with about 16 percent in 2015.

Conversely, the working-age population — those aged between 15-59 — will be 80 million fewer in 2030 than in 2015, according to a statement Wednesday from China’s National Development and Reform Commission, cited by the Wall Street Journal.

The report predicts China’s population will peak in 2030 at 1.45 billion. It stood at around 1.37 billion in 2015.

Image: Nurses holding babies
Nurses hold babies at the Xiyuege Center, or “Lucky Month Home,” in Beijing, China. Greg Baker / AFP – Getty Images

Experts suggest that China’s demographic crisis is in part a legacy of its attempt at population control through the one-child policy.

“In traditional Chinese culture, more children meant more prosperity, so the traditional household would hope for more children, but the one-child policy has played a role in affecting that,” said Jieyu Liu, deputy director of the China Institute at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

“This recent change to the one-child policy is mostly affecting urban populations,” she said. “Since the 1980s, rural households were allowed to have a second child if their first was not a son. I think that after 36 years under the one-child policy, a lot of urban couples have already adapted into this one-child culture.”

People with whom NBC News spoke this week on the streets of the Chinese capital expressed concern about the challenges facing parents in China.

Image: Lui Wei
Lui Wei. Eric Baculinao / NBC News

Liu Wei, a 27-year-old Beijing resident and mother of a 14-month-old girl, said she was hesitating over having another baby.

“Raising a child is very expensive,” she said. “My daughter just had an ordinary cold and we have already spent about $1400 for several days of treatment.”

“If the couple are both working, no one would be there to take care of the baby at home,” said Wu Fan, 31.

The shop-owner added: “Another reason is expensive housing, especially in Beijing. I plan to have our baby this year, but whether I will want to have a second child I am not sure yet.”

All those with whom NBC News spoke on the streets of Beijing this week cited finances as a major obstacle to either having either a first or a second child. Concerns about China’s notorious air pollution were also raised.

Image: Wu Fan
Wu Fan. Eric Baculinao / NBC News

Experts also told NBC News that low levels of parental leave — four months for women and two weeks to nothing at all for men — along with a lack of affordable child care have diminished parents’ desire for a second child.

So, can China’s ruling Communist Party fix the problem? Experts suggested the government will struggle to effect meaningful change.

“The bottom line is that this is a very hard area to have any impact on. It’s mostly about public attitudes,” Professor Kerry Brown, director of the Lau China Institute at London’s King’s College, told NBC News.

“Trying to have campaigns encouraging people to have bigger families, it’s very limited what you can do,” he said. “The economic constraints on people in China are very great. It’ll probably have a very limited impact, whatever the government does. It’s about creating the right mood music as it were.”

Despite China’s baby deficit, the country has resisted calls from some activists to abandon restrictions on the number of children families can have.

The government’s population plan says the environmental carrying capacity, food and water supplies, energy production and the ability of medical and public services to cope would be stretched by too great an increase in population.

For the time being, however, such concerns remain hypothetical.

“The problem,” Russell said, “is that many families are just not having many children — period.”


12 Comments on "China Population Crisis: New Two-Child Policy Fails To Yield Major Gains"

  1. Hubert on Sat, 28th Jan 2017 2:54 pm 

    These stupid people are insane.

  2. Cloggie on Sat, 28th Jan 2017 3:24 pm 

    It is the same in every economically advanced/advancing nation: working and careers is not very good for sex and procreation. Sex and having babies is not sterile enough:

    And then there is internet porn.

    Advanced societies gradually morph into a collection of hedonistic Panda bears.

  3. penury on Sat, 28th Jan 2017 3:58 pm 

    I agree with “Hubert”, maybe our reasons are different but, the same answer appears. Why I wonder is the falling birthrate a national disaster, but over population is so what? Just in case I am very cognizant of gobernment specious reasons for adding large numbers to the population, however I consider the fate of the population to be more important than the decrease in the governments ability to collect taxes.

  4. Kenz300 on Sat, 28th Jan 2017 7:57 pm 

    The slowdown in population growth is what helped China raise millions out of poverty.

  5. Anonymous on Sat, 28th Jan 2017 8:19 pm 

    No kenzbot, it had far more to do with opening its doors to western and other Asian corporations, with few strings attached, than the country’s one-child policy. That made some Chinese ‘wealthy’ no doubt, but as usual, your mindless posts are off-the-mark by miles.

    Better luck next time you post the next iteration of one of your mindless mantras.

  6. makati1 on Sun, 29th Jan 2017 1:15 am 

    Anon, so many have all the internet resources to check their assertions before they post them, but few do. China built their country with American corporate owned factories moved to the cheap labor of China. Americans are still sending over 1/2 trillion dollars per year to China which they are spending on resources all over the world. Trump wants to stop the drain, but it is too late. Not going to happen. Maybe a trade war that might lead to a real one is the only option?

    Japan leads the way to an ‘old age’ (shrinking) economy. What penury doesn’t seem to see is HIS future requires taxpayer dollars to increase in amount, not decrease. As people retire, taxes will go up and up on everything, and his lifestyle will contract to 3rd world levels quickly. That is already happening in most Western countries or in Western wannabees like Japan. The U$ is adding about 10,000 retirees to the number of low/zero taxpayers every day.

  7. Theedrich on Sun, 29th Jan 2017 3:20 am 

    Genosuicidism is the obverse of anti-evolutionism.

  8. Cloggie on Sun, 29th Jan 2017 4:21 am 

    For overpopulated Japan the development is not necessarily bad, as these folks are not burdened with this self-defeating Christianity brain software/cancer, that wants to “love” (read: not resist) the Holy Other.

    Christianity [1] or its secular offshoots Marxism (Bolshevik [2] or “cultural” [3]), all three invented by those who can’t be named, were designed to bring down the Roman Empire, Czarist Russia and the good ol’ USofA respectively. And what a smashing success it all was.

    [1] “Saint” Paul
    [2] Lenin-Trotsky, funded by the Walstraat (Jacob Schiff, the Soros of the twenties)
    [3] Franfurter Schule, the ruling ideology of the West: Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, Erich Fromm, Friedrich Pollock, Leo Löwenthal, Jürgen Habermas, Alfred Schmidt, Axel Honneth, Siegfried Kracauer, Otto Kirchheimer. Most have German names, none of them actually were German.

    Putin-Russia has shown that with the correct propaganda, tax measures etc., the Panda bears can be persuaded to have production sex again.

  9. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 29th Jan 2017 4:22 am 

    That was an interestng article Mr. Clogged,
    about Japan single people.

    The true problem is obvious, the warfare of the
    ultra-rich, against the ordinary middle-class,
    has ground the middle-class into dust, with men
    unable to create the necessary ‘success’
    (good home, extra income, extra savings, leisure, etc) that the woman would need to
    raise a kid. So, instead she is single too, and becomes a single career woman.

    So what’s the problem? Is it the man?
    Is it the woman?

    No, the problem is the super-rich, for they
    are true evil, and no matter how many billions
    of cash they already have, they want more,
    more, more and more. Even if it exterminates
    and extincts the civilization they came from.

  10. Cloggie on Sun, 29th Jan 2017 5:07 am 

    So what’s the problem? Is it the man?
    Is it the woman?

    Neither, nor. It is the f* egalitarian ideology that encourages woman to act like men and become “independent”.

    The old contract was: her eros against his resources, but that contract has been destroyed by feminism and too much material progress.

    Male-female relationships can be summed up in two sentences:

    He: “I think you are beautiful”
    She: “I think you have good taste”

    Any questions?

    Males are designed to desire women.
    Females are designed to desire children.

    Camille Paglia isn’t that far off the mark in describing the essence of male-female relationships, except for her disastrous glorification of strong Amazon’s. That’s the last thing we want, because it is the best prescription to destroy marriage and hence the continuation of our civilization.

    The breakup of modern marriages are for 80% initiated by calculating females, who know very well that the courts almost always side with them, so they get the money without the “maintenance burden”.

    Any right-wing revolution aimed at protecting our kind, shouldn’t give a damn about economic growth, but first and foremost marriage laws, reintroducing the “guilt” principle: those who breaks, pays. And stress the worth of the family & clan at the cost of the unattainable Christian ideal of life-long “romantic love”. And forbid gay prides and abolish gay marriage.

  11. Davy on Sun, 29th Jan 2017 5:45 am 

    I drink quality Chinese and Japanese green tea daily. On occasions I enjoy reading Zen and Tao. These traditions are highly relevant for the coming decline of modern civilization. The principal of yielding and finding balance in the unbalanced is of the highest importance to my spiritual prepping. These Asians are fascinating and I admire their culture for giving me that. The art from these early periods is phenomenal.

    What they have become is just another modern cancer. China once had a more resilient society that was a balance of rural and urban. Transport was cart and bike with some motorized. The countryside had an elaborate agricultural system dating back centuries. In the course of 30 years or so it was all destroyed in the same old western tradition of progress. Now China is among the worst place to be for the coming fall. China is huge so not all of China but a majority of its urban and industrial areas will be a hell on earth one day. Other countries have the same overconsumption issues of big cities with fossil fuel dependence no doubt. China adds to this a grotesque overpopulation. The only place worse is India which is off the charts into the absurd.

  12. Cloggie on Sun, 29th Jan 2017 6:01 am

    Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, or “The Fool” for short, has announced that he opposes Trump’s anti-Muslim travel measures and that he will continue to volunteer to be the third world’s dumping ground, at the cost of the (white) Canadian tax-payer, cheered on by the likes of Friday and Ghung. Trudeau will be remembered as the de facto slayer of Canada.

    But then again, the Anglos from the now defunct British Empire are no longer designed to carry their own weight and since Mother Nature doesn’t like losers, good riddance to them.

    Let’s bring home the continental Europeans working in the City after the coming hard Brexit, rip viable parts like Scotland from the UK and bring the banks to Frankfurt and Paris, so Hitler won the war post mortem and set up Paris-Berlin-Moscow, to begin with a potent army, all in the spirit of Donald Trump.

    No mercy.

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