Opinion

China needs smarter population policies

Last Thursday, Chinese authorities announced changes to their infamous one-child policy, which has been in place for the past 35 years. Now, Chinese couples will be allowed to have two children without fees and penalties. The change is long overdue, as the policy was one of the biggest failures of any demographic policy in the world and has caused tremendous human suffering.

The policy was first created to boost economic growth and was also influenced by mid-20th century population bomb rhetoric that predicted that exponential population growth would cause resource shortages and economic strain. However, the one-child policy had a negligible benefit, if any, to China’s economy, according to a New Yorker interview with policy expert Mei Fong this week. Economists largely attribute China’s growth to investment strategies and entrepreneurship, not demographics.

On the contrary, egregious human rights violations have been carried out under its reign. Forced sterilizations, forced abortions – both early and late term – infanticide and child confiscation occurred regularly. According to a Washington Post article on Oct. 30, official statistics reported that 6.7 million women in China were forced to have abortions under the one-child policy.

This new policy change comes as officials are starting to see how a demographic imbalance is affecting the Communist Party’s bottom line. China failed to meet “replacement rate reproduction,” meaning that each couple has two children who can “replace” them in the population when they pass away. This, along with China’s negative net migration rate, has resulted in a generation of young people who are vastly outnumbered by older generations.

The government can’t bring in enough tax revenue from the smaller working population to fund social and medical programs to support the larger aging population.

For single children, the burden of taking care of their parents falls solely upon their shoulders. Should an only child pass away prematurely or move away from home, the parents are left with no caretakers in their old age. There is even a term given to Chinese parents whose only child has died: “shidu.” This position comes with social stigma. There are an estimated one million “shidu” parents, and this number grows every year, according to the aforementioned New Yorker interview with Mei Fong.

The stress and uncertainty experienced by older generations is correlated with an unusually high rate of suicide in elderly Chinese people. According to a 2009 study in the journal Psychogeriatrics, “the over-65 age group has the highest rate of completed suicide, reaching 44.3-200 per 100,000, which is four to five times higher than the Chinese general population.”

Raising the official limit to two is a very small step, but a step nonetheless. China should repeal their direct family planning policies altogether and cleanse the government of its atrocious family planning enforcement branch.

Population dynamics are important to states, so I won’t argue against that. The predictable replacement rate reproduction of Scandinavian states is part of the reason those governments can provide such reliable social programs. But smarter policies should be enacted.

Educating women has been widely shown to dramatically lower birth rates. According to a seminal 1997 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women who have attained a college education will have an average of only 1.6-2 children. More widespread education efforts for Chinese women, especially those living in rural areas, would have just as dramatic an effect on the birth rates, without any of the horrific side effects. Easier access to family planning resources could also help.

Chinese demographic policy needs to be smarter at its core, not simply relaxed in scope.

Annie Cappetta is a sophomore majoring in ecosystem science and policy and political science.

November 4, 2015

Reporters

Annie Cappetta


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

It was maybe coincidence, but positioned just behind his left shoulder as Tyrique Stevenson spoke ab ...

The Miami Hurricanes unveiled a new turnover chain this season, replacing the bedazzled “U” that han ...

Before now, the last time the Miami Hurricanes scored 21 or fewer points in four consecutive games w ...

Keontra Smith waited a long time for the Miami Hurricnaes to finally offer him. The defensive back g ...

University of Miami true freshman running back Cam’ron Davis, known as Cam for short, is about to lo ...

A UM researcher is helping to lead a study on how smoke interacts with clouds and its impact on the ...

People are bombarded with news and information these days, providing opportunities for discourse tha ...

Students, faculty and staff stopped by the School of Architecture’s Korach Gallery to learn what Mag ...

The On Campus event featured innovative National Geographic Explorers—photographers, scientists, sto ...

UM Professor of Law Frances R. Hill tells us what we should know. ...

The No. 24 Miami women's basketball team is headed to Iowa State for the Preseason WNIT champio ...

The Canes hit the road for the final time in the 2018 regular season and it is to a familiar and hos ...

The Canes top the Golden Eagles to move onto the WNIT Championship game. ...

Miami wraps up its season-opening homestand with a 2 p.m. Saturday matchup against Bethune-Cookman a ...

University of Miami head golf coach Patti Rizzo announced Thursday the signing of three golfers to N ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.