Essay: China’s One Child Policy

China’s one child policy was introduced in 1978 and began applying to all families in 1979. It followed on the heels of a marketing message from the government that heavily promoted the idea that “One is good; two is okay; three is too many.” China’s one child policy was not the government’s first attempt to limit the size of families.

The supposed practical result is that once a family has a baby, they generally assume their baby making days are over. However, there are several exceptions and many ways to get around the rule. For instance, families may choose to add a second or third child, if they are willing to accept a greater financial burden for those children and the entire family. A “social fostering” fee is imposed for each additional child. This fee is based upon a family’s disposable income the year the child was born for urban residents. For rural peasants, the fee is based on their annual cash income. Additional expenses, which would typically be paid by the government for the first child, are not covered for subsequent children. These expenses include education and healthcare for the entire family. Subsequently, one of the end results of China’s one child policy is that only wealthier families are afforded the “luxury” of having more than one child.

Exceptions to the rule also exist for the following categories of family:

  • when both parents are only children, they are allowed to have two children with no “social fostering” fee;
  • if one of the parents is disabled;
  • when “practical difficulties” exist that make having more than one child necessary, as when there is a lot of farm work that must be accomplished and the family needs extra workers;
  • if the first child is born severely disabled; or
  • if the first child dies.

The exceptions and work arounds generally mean though, that the birth rate is China is closer to 1.8 children per family than just one-child, as the name of the policy might indicate.

Some possibly unintended results of China’s one child policy might be the increased savings rate of the Chinese workers. The reasoning is that since individuals can no longer rely on their children to take care of them in their old age, saving for retirement and the final years is increased, giving most Chinese more money to invest.

Another result of China’s one child policy is economic growth. There are fewer people competing for a job which means there is little to no surplus labor, making unemployment relatively low – 4.3% as of 2009 according to the CIA World Factbook.

In conclusion, the main affects have been to control the population so resources are more evenly distributed, that girls have their pick of suitors when they reach marrying age, and that the children born since the policy was implemented are doing a better job than past generations in saving for their future.