Two-Child Policy Not Enough for China to Cope With Approaching Crisis

(Sputnik) – The number of new births in China increased by 1.3 million to reach 17.86 million last year due to the government’s newly adopted two-child policy. But this is not enough to cover for a shrinking workforce as the country’s giant population ages.

Although new rules for couples have triggered the biggest annual total of new births on the mainland since 1993, Beijing was hoping for more impressive numbers. China’s family planning agency had previously estimated that relaxing control on births would guarantee to push them up to 20 million.

Observers say the situation in the country has changed greatly since the times when Beijing practiced forced abortions to control its population, and currently many young couples are not willing to have children even though they are allowed to do so.

After more than 30 years under the strict one-child policy, most urban Chinese now see single-child families as the norm. Meanwhile, the country is burdened with a large, ageing population and a labor force that is getting smaller.

Hu Jieqiong in China.
Image Source: Jonathan Kos-Read, Flickr, Creative Commons

According to the data released on Friday by the National Bureau of Statistics, the country’s workforce — people aged 16 to 59 — declined by 3.49 million in 2016 while the number of pensioners increased by 10.86 million.

Cnpop.org, a non-profit organization analyzing China’s population and birth policies, predicts that the country will be challenged with a “chronic” fall in the number of newborns starting 2018.

“We should stop pinning high hopes on the idea that scrapping the one-child policy would have a big impact and change the population structure,” said Ren Yuan, a demographics professor at Fudan University in Shanghai. “The greying society is an unstoppable trend.”

The One-Child policy was first introduced to the Chinese public in the late 1970s, amid concerns that rapidly growing population and population density would overwhelm the country’s economy.

This report prepared by Sputnik.