HONG KONG – China is abolishing its decades-long policy restricting couples to one child.
The country will “fully implement a policy of allowing each couple to have two children as an active response to an aging population,” the Communist Party said Thursday via state news agency Xinhua.
But there was no mention of when or how the new policy will be rolled out across the nation.
China, which currently has a population of over 1.3 billion, has been gradually relaxing its family planning policy. First introduced in 1979 to slow the country’s birth rate, parents who violated the ruling were punished through a variety of methods, from fines to sterilization and forced abortions.
Two years ago, the Chinese government allowed parents in many parts of the country to have two children if one parent was an only child.
China faces a rapidly aging population, a major concern for the government as it attempts to maintain the country’s rapid economic growth. The relaxation of the one-child policy two years ago was seen as a move to kick-start birth rates throughout the country, although many married couples have so far been reluctant to have more than one child — if any children at all. In addition, the one-child policy has resulted in a severe imbalance between the number of women and men in the country, with men far outnumbering women.
There has been one economic benefit of the one-child policy, however: it has resulted in the so-called “Chosen One” phenomenon, where the single child born 20 or 30 years ago is doted over by not only his parents, but both sets of his grandparents. This has helped fueled the boom in demand in the country — and overseas — for luxury goods as these “Chosen Ones” have gone on a spending spree supported by their parents and grandparents.
“I don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact in the short-term,” said Shaun Rein, managing director of CMR China. “We’ve done research on this and in urban areas only 15 percent of people surveyed said they would have a second kid. The cost of living in urban areas in China rivals New York or London and things like school tuition fees are just too expensive for people to consider having more than one child.
“They really should have done it five years ago, in about a decade there will be a real lack of available workers,” he added. “Even if you are going up the value chain in production lines, you still need workers. This is the right thing to do, but it’s just five years too late. It’s definitely going to have an impact on the economy, just not as large as people think.”