By Horace Lu
“Family Planning for the Revolution”, an old poster encouraging families to adopt the one-child policy.
Henan, China’s most populous province, has passed new legislation to allow couples to have a second child, provided that both husband and wife are from one-child families. With this move, all of China’s 22 provinces, 4 municipalities, 5 autonomous regions now allow couples made up of single children on both sides to have a second child.
Since the late 1970s, in order to slow down sky-rocketing population increase and ease economic, social and environmental pressure, China has been promoting the “one-child policy”, a birth control plan requiring Chinese families to have only one child, notwithstanding certain exceptional circumstances. According to the Chinese constitution, “both husband and wife have the duty to practice family planning.”
As the generation of single children affected by the policy started to get married, many places in China gradually began to loosen up birth control policies, allowing an increasing number of couples to have two children.
Even today, the one-child policy remains highly controversial in China. Proponents say it helps to slow down population growth and save resources so that China can invest more in economic development and improve human development, while opponents say it leads to a series of social problems, including the shortage of labor, serious gender imbalance and heavy burdens for individuals supporting the elderly.
Certain provinces, for example Guangdong, have been hoping to go a step further than other regions, by working to allow couples to have two children as long as only one spouse is from a one-child family.
And in Shanxi province, a little-known pilot area has been conducting the “two-child policy” for 26 years. Couples there can have two children as long as the mother gives birth to the first child after 24 years of age and the second child after 30. However, although family planning is much looser in the pilot area, the population is still declining, since people are less willling to have more children than in years past.
“There are principles behind births. People’s life patterns determine how many children they want to have,” a journalist who investigated the pilot area said. With the skyrocketing cost of housing and other essentials in recent years, it hardly comes as a surprise that many families choose to stick with raising only one child, despite being given the chance to have a second.