China abolishes one-child policy

EXPERTS yesterday welcomed China’s decision to abolished its one-child policy after 36 years, allowing couples to have two children and rejuvenating the greying population.

Stuart Gietel-Basten, an University of Oxford demographer, said: “I’m shaking to be honest. It’s one of those things you have been working on and saying for years and recommending they should do something and it finally happened. It’s just a bit of a shock.”

Yet this new policy will not lead to a huge baby boom as fertility rates are believed to be declining and many young people in China favour smaller family sizes.

The restrictions had caused an imbalanced sex ratio as boys were preferred and it led to forced abortions of female foetuses. The imbalance made it difficult for some men to find wives and it is believed to fuel the trading of women as brides.

Couples who broke the rules were forced to pay a fee in proportion to their income. In some cases, rural families had to give their livelihood in the form of their pigs and chickens away.

The drop in the birthrate has pushed up the average age of the population and demographers foresee a crisis because the policy reduced the young workforce that must support the large generation of retirees.

Cai Yong, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina said: “The good news is, it is here. The bad news is, it is too little too late.”

China has the world’s largest population at 1.4 billion people and announced the one-child policy in 1979 as a temporary measure to limit the population and demands for water and other resources.

The government believes the one-child policy prevented 400 million births and helped to lift countless families out of poverty by relieving the strain on the country’s limited resources.

But demographers argue the birthrate would have decreased anyway as China’s economy developed and education levels rose.