On May 31st the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party, the country’s central decision-making body, announced that the Chinese government will provide support for couples who wish to have a third child. According to the State-run Xinhua news agency, the objective is to rejuvenate the aging population and maintain the country’s human demographic advantage. This announcement comes just three weeks after the publication of the decennial census showing that birth rates have continued to decline, to a current fertility rate of around 1.6.
Mandated by Deng Xiaoping in 1980, the one-child policy was relaxed in 2013, but nonetheless, birth rates did not increase. Out of 11 million couples potentially affected by this reform, only 620,000 applied for permission to have a second child. In 2015, the Plenum of the Central Committee announced that starting on January 1, 2016, all couples would be allowed to have two children. Thus, Chinese executive measures remained very directorial and coercive. After decades of birth control, the country’s Health Ministry estimated that its’ policies had led to 281 million abortions between 1980 and 2010. A policy of forced sterilization was also enforced.
These policies have had dramatic consequences. The official demographic announcement insists on the economic aspect. In 2010, two working adults were in charge of one economically dependent individual (child or elderly person). Current projections show that by 2050, China will have 250 million fewer workers, thus, there will only be approximately one working adult for each economically dependent person. In her book published in 2017, Isabelle Attane, an “INED” researcher, pointed out the risk for China of “growing old before becoming rich”. (INED: French National Institute for Demographic Studies).
The strict birth control policy has also had many other effects, such as an imbalanced gender ratio of 107 men to 100 women in 2015, compared to France with 92 men for 100 women. This imbalance itself has disastrous consequences, such as women trafficking .
Initial reactions in the media and on social networks seem to indicate that this new proactive ruling from the Chinese leaders will not necessarily have any impact on birth rates. Various factors are mentionned such as the lack of support for mothers, the price of housing and education, the difficulty for women to juggle their family and professional life simultaneously, the decline in marriage rates, as well as the mindset after decades of severely controlling birth rate… A New York Times article published the results of an online survey by the Xinhua agency entitled “Are you ready for the 3-child policy? ». The results show that a “baby boom” doesn’t seem likely to occur anytime soon, since out of roughly 22,000 people who responded to the poll, 20,000 chose “I won’t consider it at all”.
But the most surprising aspect is the absence of any international criticism regarding China’s coercive and repressive policy. The government has been abusively interfering in the intimate and private life of its’ citizens for decades and international human rights groups remain desperately silent.