In October 2015, China officially approved the two-child policy that replaced the one-child policy.
The one-child policy remained in force for 35 years, causing several problems (disparity in sex ratio at birth, forced abortions and sterilizations, human rights violations, unregistered children, etc) in its attempt to contain the Chinese population explosion.
According to The Diplomat, in 2015, 9% of the population was over 65, and a growing number of families had an inverted pyramid structure, with 4 grandparents, 2 parents, and 1 nephew.
A real nightmare for the pension system of a country.
In short, the abrogation of the one-child law came too late, even if the initial purpose was achieved, namely demographic containment. But at what cost, and how?
According to a data often used, but not entirely certain, this law has prevented the birth of another 400 million children.
The origins of the one-child policy are to be found in the motto of the seventies wan xi shao (晚 稀 少), meaning “later, longer and few”.
The motto refers to the party guidelines that suggested having children later, wait longer in between births, and have fewer children.
According to some academics, the decline of three-quarters of births since the 1970s can be traced back to policies immediately preceding the launch of the one-child policy.
At the time, however, the Chinese government was not entirely confident of the possible success of these campaigns.
According to government forecasts, which were based on gross estimates, the population would have grown too fast to be contained.
Thus the one-child law was introduced in 1979.
A second demographic decline occurred in the 1980s.
But how much of this can be credited to the one-child policy, and how much to the economic growth and the consequent improvement of living conditions?
After all, everywhere in the world, we have seen that the improvement of lifestyles corresponds to a decline in fertility.
From that very moment in China, that is, with the death of Mao, the fall of the Gang of Four, and the arrival of Deng Xiaoping, China entered its Golden Age, knowing an unequaled economic development.
Therefore, as happened in the rest of the world, the demographic decline can be traced back to the improvement of lifestyles.
But let’s go back to the present day.
The Chinese government, introducing the two-child policy in concert with government propaganda that encouraged more births, hoped that this intervention would at least partially alleviate the situation.
In 2016, in fact, the year in which the new policy came into force, we saw an increase of 1.31 million births compared to the previous year, bringing the new births to 18 million, against the 20 million that the government had hoped.
Experts also said that the couples who wanted the second child rushed to do so, making a surge in the early years, and then stabilizing.
In fact, the number of new births in 2017 has fallen by 630,000 compared to 2016. According to Xinhua, 50% of newborn in 2017, was not the first child. This policy has helped somehow.
But not enough to stop the decline.
Zhai Zhenwu, the president of the China Population Association, said the number of births will continue to decline in 2018, and so for the next few years. “
Furthermore, other problems are added.
The number of Chinese women of child-bearing age (between 15 and 49 years of age) has fallen by 5 million each year since 2011.
“So even if the birth rate were to remain the same, we would still have a decline”.
Moreover, after decades of one-child policy, cultural norms in China concerning fertility have changed radically.
Three decades, according to Mu Guangzhong, a professor at the Beijing Population Research Institute, have been enough to wipe out thousands of years of Chinese tradition in this regard.
The new “culture of fertility” has therefore changed in such a way that young couples today are not interested in having more than one child, or they prefer not to have it at all.
Therefore, concludes Mu and other experts, the only policies that perhaps could slow demographic decline affect financial incentives to encourage births, and a stronger social system.