The Chinese government has allowed married couples to have three children to rejuvenate its population, ending the age-old controversial policy. Known as a one-child nation, China, on Monday has made changes in its two-child policy as a measure to increase its birth rates as the country suffers from a potential demographic crisis.
The Chinese Communist Party has admitted that its efforts to put a limit on reproduction which was implemented in the 1970s has projected the country's economic prospects into doubt and its ambition to become the world’s superpower.
The results from China’s once-in-a-year census which was conducted earlier this year showed that the Mainland’s population has seen a growth of 1.41 billion over the past 10 years - a 5.38 per cent growth from the 2010 figure.
However, in total Chinese mothers have given birth to just 12 million children in 2020, an 18 per cent decline from the 14.65 million births recorded in 2019 and an almost six-decade low.
In comparison to the other countries that have an ageing population like Japan and Italy, China’s fertility rate stands at just 1.3 children per woman, which is strikingly lower than the replacement level of 2.1 required for stable population growth.
Some observers have also hinted at a scenario where a large proportion of the population will arrive at the retirement ages before the younger generation receive education and training. This, the observers have cautioned, can lead to an increase in unemployment and a major fall in general productivity.
An ageing population can bring another drawback with efficiency in connection to manufacturing since younger people are more strong in terms of physical strength and are seen to be more productive and learn quicker than their older counterparts.
Will the change in policy work for China?
The introduction of the one-child policy that came into effect in China in the 1970s is largely the reason behind the slow growth of the population there, which often has been termed cruel, as it was at times implemented especially in the country's rural areas with reports of authorities forcing women to have abortions.
Recognizing the worrying trend in growth, China has replaced that policy with a two-child limit in 2016.
However, experts have pointed out that the 2016 policy has not helped given the inflated prices of child healthcare, education and real estate (especially in the country's urban areas).
China’s quest for economic growth has caused an increase in migration to cities as the nation sought to place its position from an agriculture-based economy to a secondary and tertiary sector-based one.
According to some reports, the current population residing in urban regions stands at roughly 64 per cent, resembling that seen in the US during the 1950s.
But with income not seeing an increase proportional to education and real estate rising costs, there are concerns that middle-income couples are postponing having kids, instead now placing premiums on independence and career growth.
In the absence of more tax incentives, housing subsidies, expansion of the social security blanket and universal child care, analysts have raised concerns doubts
Notably, the future of Chinese women is also under gloom as questions around how a single middle-income couple can support four elderly parents along with three children have come to light.