By Beth Main
Speculation has surfaced again that China might scrap its one-child policy, amid concerns that it is negatively affecting the country’s economic growth and population equality.
The policy restricts every couple to only one child unless both the parents are only children themselves, of an ethnic minority, foreigners, farmers whose first child was a girl or handicapped, or in the case of twins. The policy was introduced in the late 1970s and is strictly enforced, even when nature is taking the piss. It is hugely controversial both inside of China and out because of the associated forced abortions and female infanticide.
Last year the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to China’s very own Mo Yan, whose latest book tells the tale of a doctor who performs abortions to enforce the one-child policy, and it would seem that the government is allowing debate on the topic. The concerns over gender inequality, an insufficient young workforce and only children basically being brats have caused many to question what was already an unpopular policy.
But despite calls for its abolition the government still enforces the policy through forced abortions, compensations and fines throughout China.
Although most Chinese people do actually support the one child policy, they do not support forced abortions, as seen by the reaction to the viral photo of Feng Jianmei and her aborted child (distressing images). The photograph and local media reporting made this a big story but is far from being an isolated case.
Most demographers think that it would be too late to avert a demographic crisis in China even if the policy were to be changed tomorrow. The slowdown in births has already led to a dramatic rise in the ratio of pensioners to young workers needed to support them. According to the 2010 census, the number of people over the age of 60 has risen to 13.3 per cent of the population compared with just over a tenth a decade ago; children under 14 comprise less than one-sixth of the population, down from almost a quarter 10 years ago.