China recently announced steps that will try to reform the strict adherence to the one-child policy the country implemented 30 years ago. In an official policy document which was issued after a four-day meeting of high-ranking party officials, it says that aside from easing its one-child policy it also moved to abolish the country’s labor camp system.
The meeting happened one year after Xi Jinping, the current paramount leader and the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, took leadership of the whole country. In a Washington Post report quoting Dali Yang, a University of Chicago China expert he says that, “This is someone who’s much more decisive, who has power, and who has been able to manoeuvre to make the decision.”
Growing Unpopularity of the Policy
Since its strict implementation in the late 70’s the one-child policy has grown unpopular over the years. Chinese couples who disobey the rule face a heavy fine and the prospect of losing their property or even their jobs.
Human rights groups claim that the policy actually led women to commit abortions although the government denies such implications exist. Aside from this, the occurrences of sex-selective abortions are also apparently being practiced. Traditionally, couples prefer boys for a child and this has created a gender imbalance in the Chinese society. Thus, in essence, demographers say that by 2020 the country will have 24 million men who will not be able to find a wife.
Aside from these, the working age individual in the future will have to take care of two parents and four grandparents in retirement. Researchers call this as the 4-2-1 phenomenon in the perspective of the single-child policy. In China, the elderly in the family are still being cared for by relatives.
Chinese leaders realized that if they continue to implement the policy, the growing population of the elderly will rise and will bear its brunt by decreasing the labor pool as well worsen the elderly care issues. This is because by year 2050 more than one-fourth of the population will reach 65 years old and above.
“Positive Step in the Right Direction”
According to an assistant professor of sociology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Cai Yong in a Washington Post interview said,
“Although this is, relatively speaking, a small step, I think it’s a positive step in the right direction and hope that this will be a transition to a more relaxed policy and eventual return of reproductive freedom to the Chinese people.”
Although not meant to totally abolish the existing one-child policy, the announcement nonetheless introduced new but limited exemptions. One important new exemption is with regard to families in which at least one parent who came from an only-child arrangement will now be allowed to have a second child. Previously, the rule for a second child applies only for parents who both came from only-child arrangements. The other exemption to the policy which was already approved back in 1984 is with regard to the rural couples. They are allowed to have a second child if their first-born is a girl.
The government claims that the one-child policy introduced 30 years ago actually prevented millions of birth and helped lift many families out of poverty.
Another important reform that came out of the meeting is with regard to doing away with the “re-education through labour” policy. BBC quoting Xinhua news agency said that this move was, “part of efforts to improve human rights and judicial practices” in China. This in effect, will allow the free market concept to play a bigger role in the economic development of the country and will also allow the farmers to gain more property rights over their land. These steps meant to reform China’s one-child policy as well as improve the people’s conditions are indeed good news to many.
By Roberto I. Belda