According to China Business News (第一财经日报), China is considering changing its one-child policy (独生子女政策) to a ‘two-child policy’ (二孩政策). It could be implemented as soon as the end of the year “if everything goes well” – a government source told China Business Review on July 22.
China initiated the one child-policy in 1979 with an aim to control the nation’s rapid population growth. The policy has been blamed for innumerable cases of forced abortions and mandatory sterilizations over the past 35 years.
The one-child policy has not been implemented in all cases. China’s ethnic minorities or couples in rural areas are allowed to have more than one child if their firstborn is a girl. Since 2013, in response to the declining population growth, many couples are entitled to have a second child if one of the parents is also an only child (单独二孩). But this change turned out not to be effective, as China’s birth rate has remained low, and society is continuously ageing. The working-age population has dropped for three years in a row according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
With the new policy, which the National Family Planning Council is evaluating and promoting, the two-child policy would be the new national standard (全面二孩), and all Chinese couples would be permitted to have two children.
“Many couples actually do not want to have more than one child.”
The news created a buzz of attention in social media. On Sina Weibo, the hot topic of the “two-child policy” has been viewed over 10 million times with nearly 23,000 comments as of writing.
User ‘Goblin Gucci‘ supports the overall openness of the two-child policy. “I’m absolutely in favor of the two-child policy. As the only child in the family, kids are spoiled and selfish. Two kids are perfect as they can play together and support each other. I think growing up with a sibling would make a happy childhood.”
A large number of Weibo users also questions if the new policy can help relieve the pressure of ageing population in China. A user named ‘80 percent new man‘ says there’s no hope that the ‘two-child policy’ could change the current ageing situation. “The richer the society is, fewer people desire to have kids. Raising kids in China is really expensive, and the one-child policy generation is under a lot of pressure to take care of their parents. I’m afraid many couples actually do not want to have more than one child.”
“This policy is already coming too late.”
Comments also showed significant concerns about the economic pressures of having a second child. Zhang Ming, professor of politics at Renmin University of China (中国人民大学) also shares his thoughts on Weibo: “It’s already too late to open the new policy, as not many couples would consider having a second child. The one-child policy has made child-rearing costs so high that many parents cannot afford a second child anymore.”
User ‘ENOVAS_Erika‘ further explains: “In China, many grandparents help take care of their grandchild. But if the grandparents cannot help raise the second child, one of the parents (usually the wife) will have to quit her job and become stay-at-home mum. Not many fathers in China are able to carry the financial burden for the family, including the grandparents, in-laws, two kids and wife. We need more financial support from the government, so that we can actually consider having a second child.”
“Let’s first talk about education, food safety, property prices, the pension system and healthcare, before we talk about introducing the two-child policy.”
This Weibo user is not the only one who feels this way. Many other users urge the government to take action to make it easier for those people who do want to have a second child. User ‘Yuebo007‘ says the new policy will be meaningless unless the government also increases social benefits. “The main priority is to solve the problems concerning education, food safety, commodity prices, property prices, the pension system and healthcare. Then we can talk about the two-child policy.”
Critique aside, going from the one-child to two-child policy is also regarded as a step forward in personal freedom and individual rights by many. “Many people complain that they can’t afford a second child because they do not receive enough support or welfare from the government, although some of them do want to have more kids,” posts user ‘Silent Minisa‘: “I see it as personal freedom. We will have the right and the option to have two children soon – if you are financially capable, then have two. If not, just stick with one child. The government is not forcing you to have two kids.”
By Yiying Fan
Featured Image: “计划生育好处多”: “Family Planning Has Many Advantages”, produced by the Family Planning Leadership Office of Jilin Province, circa 1975.
Source: US National Library of Medicine.
This article was published on What’s on Weibo.