The Chinese government will ease its one-child family size restrictions and abolish re-education through labor camps, significantly curtailing two policies that for decades have defined the state’s power to control citizens’ lives.
The changes were announced in a party decision that also laid out broad and potentially far-reaching proposals to restructure the economy by encouraging greater private participation in finance, vowing market competition in several important parts of the economy and promising farmers better property protection and compensation for confiscated land.
For decades, most urban couples have been restricted to having one child. That has been changing fitfully, with rules on the books that couples can have two children if both parents are single children. But that policy will be now be further relaxed nationwide. Many rural couples already have two, or sometimes more, children.
“This is the first time that a central document has clearly proposed allowing two children when a husband or wife is an only child,” said Wang Guangzhou, a demographer at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. “Now it’s just talking about launching this, but the specific policies have to be developed at the operational level.”
If carried through, the relaxation would mark the first significant nationwide easing of family-size restrictions that have been in place since the 1970s, said Wang Feng, a demographer who teaches at both the University of California, Irvine, and Fudan University in Shanghai. He estimated the policy could lead to 1 to 2 million more births in China every year, on top of the approximately 15 million births a year now.
“This step is really, I think, the middle step toward allowing all couples to have two children, and eventually taking away the state’s hand,” said Professor Wang. “But this shift is historical, it’s fundamental. To change the mentality of the society of policy makers has taken people more than a decade.”
The change in the one child policy has been expected for many months. The expectation is that there will be shift to a complete two child policy in 2015 and a complete dropping of restrictions sometime after that.
An unrestricted two child policy would mean another 7.5 million births per year beyond this most recent easing.
BoFAML estimates more than 9.5 million babies could be born if the policy was relaxed on top of the 16 million a year born in the mainland every year.
According to the 2005 population survey, singletons account for 29.3% of Chinese aged 30 or under (the generation affected by the one-child policy). The ratio should be significantly higher in urban areas. Assuming 60% of people of child bearing age in urban areas are singletons, on top of the 36% families which are already allowed to have two children, we estimate 48% of urban families of child bearing age could benefit from the coming reform. Using census data, there are 79 million women of child bearing age (23 to 42) this year. 48% of 79mn is 38mn. Assuming 25% of them choose to have a second child, about 9.5mn babies would be born as a result of this reform to one-child policy.
China annual number of babies could go from 16 million to 25.5 million babies in 2016.
After the change (plus a complete lifting of any restrictions around 2020 and a shift to incentiving babies in 2025), I estimate
2020: 1.43 billion
2030: 1.53 billion
2040: 1.6 billion
2050: 1.65 billion
Government researchers urged the nation to review the county’s one-child policy to cope with an aging population and labour shortages.
The county’s ageing population means the number of people aged 65 and above is predicted to reach 29% by 2050 – up from 9% in 2011.
Last year China’s working population fell for the first time in decades as a result of the one-child policy.