China to ease one-child policy. But is it too late and too little?

Alia | November 15th, 2013 - 11:21 pm

China announced yesterday, amid a series of “deepening” reforms, that it will loosen up its decades-long family planning policy to allow couples to have two children if one of them is an only child. This is the first step to promote “long-term balanced development of the population in China,” according to state media Xinhua.

China’s family planning population policy, which is commonly referred to as the one-child policy, has long been used as a perfect example to illustrate the country’s poor human rights record. The coming change has been hailed both in and outside of China. But is the move too late and too little to make any substantial impact?

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Too little?

Enough exceptions already exist – the one-child policy has never been a true one-child policy. Couples in rural areas whose first child is a girl, ethnic minorities, couples where both parents are only children, and the rich who don’t care about paying fines have always been allowed to have a second child. In some cases, even more. The new loosening-up will add more to the exempted population, but unlikely by a very large number.  

“The rich will have as many kids as they like no matter what the policy allows. Those who live in rural areas will have more than one kid anyway no matter what. The policy change will only impact people like me who are urban losers. Regardless of how many kids we are allowed to have, we won’t.” One netizen 东风吹响了风铃 commented.

The ones that will be impacted the most are urban Han families that don’t meet existing exceptions. How many of such families would actually have a second child, however, is a big question mark. Like one netizen 林又又Double put it: “Both my husband and I are only children. The policy change won’t influence us [because they already can have two kids]. But a second child? All I have to say is that to raise a child is a lot of responsibilities and pressure, which is not something everyone can handle.”

Too late?

In a quick poll by Sina Weibo, China’s twitter, the more than 14000 netizens who were asked about whether they’d have a second child given the new policy are fairly split. About 60% said they would consider a second child while 40% said no.

The number one concern of having more than one child in China, especially in cities, is cost – people simply cannot afford to have a second child. One netizen 我说容与_包子要抱抱机器人 bitterly commented: “A second child is out of the question because I can afford none. I don’t even know whether I can earn enough to support myself. If I cannot give my kids a decent life, it’s better not to have them at all.” Another netizen 某锅lark commented: “I won’t have any child unless I’m rich enough.”

The rocketing housing prices, as well as growing education and healthcare costs, make many young urban families, most of which already meet one-child exemptions, think twice before planning on a second child. As one netizen 我很好明天 put it: “High housing prices. High living expenses. And low income. If the current economic situation continues, I won’t be able to afford any child.”

When China’s first one-child generations (the post-80s generation) reach parenthood, what we see is the rise of DINK (double income, no kid) households, instead of 2-chilldren households in cities.  Many of them don’t see a point in having a second child, or any child at all, in China.

“The world is cruel and China is horrifying.  Don’t let another life go through the same hardship. If one decides to have kids, he or she must first make sure they can provide a healthy and happy environment.” Netizen 幸福的蓝色小饼干 commented.

 

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