In China, family policy in general is defined as the social policy, which is implemented by the government to protect the stability of families and to promote the family function at the country level. China’s family policy is part of social policy and is represented as a set of measures, which are aimed at providing different actions on the family institution and impacting the processes of family or marital behavior changes.
China is one of the fastest growing countries in the world, but its development is determined by a number of conditions of social and natural character, including enormous population pressure on relatively scarce natural resources. In fact, this problem is recognized in China. Moreover, China has taken effective measures to control the birth rate, but the population has already exceeded 1.3 billion people and will grow during the next 30 years. There are some tasks to be solved in the coming years by the Chinese leadership and the society. Significantly, it is needed to determine how to help enormous human resources avoid a deterrent factor and facilitate development and how realistic is such model of development that aims to make the country move from the theory to practical implementation. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to investigate the second child policy in China and determine essential consequences it can cause.
The Background of the Chinese Second Child Policy
At the beginning of the 1980s, China encountered an opinion on the need for a policy of birth control among the Chinese population and ethnic minorities, as their number compared to the population of a European country can significantly influence the course of social and economic development of the country. Therefore, since the beginning of the era of reform (which started in 1978), the Chinese birth control measures gradually extended from purely Chinese families to the areas, which were populated by national minorities. The need to plan the birth rate without regard to nationality has been fixed in Art. 53 of the 1978 Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (which is generally abbreviated as PRC) and then in Art. 25 of the current Constitution of the PRC since 1982. This provision is also included in the text of the law on regional national autonomy of 1984. In 1984, the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee issued a document number 7, which contained specific instructions which shaped the conditions of working in the field of population policy.
With regard to both native Chinese and ethnic minorities, the document allowed having two children. In some cases, it allowed people to have three children, but the birth of the fourth baby to the same family was prohibited. In the scientific literature, it was indicated that the practice of the implementation of such policy had a little disagreed with the requirements of government institutions.
The final version of the design of the policy of birth control adopted in 2001 states that population and birth planning policies are prescribed to take measures to limit fertility and national minorities. Afterward, the policy on the child birth rate was changed, and it stated that a family can have only one child. This policy was named as the second child policy and comprised the basis and conditions wherein it is possible to have two children to the same family. Thus, to evaluate the second child policy in China, it is necessary to forecast and analyze the possible consequences it would bring and a present demographic situation.
Demographic Situation in China: Statistics
According to Chinese and foreign scientists, the demographic situation in the PRC will have increased until the middle of the twenty-first century. The following trends and the resulting difficulties will occur due to several aspects. The first aspect is grounded on the fact that China is among the countries with an aging population. The population that is over 65 years of age during the period 2000-2050 will rise from 6.8% to 22.6%. Due to the fact that the state did not create provisions for pensions, the problem of maintaining the life of such a large number of aging people will be very acute. In addition to purely economic aspects, China is not psychologically ready to take care of such a large number of elderly people. Families have become smaller since parents and children live apart. Thus, maintaining further the traditionally entrusted family function of the content of the elderly is becoming more difficult.
The second aspect is grounded on the fact that the country has violated not only the age but also the gender structure of the population. The researches indicated that 120 boys were born, while the number of girls born is only 100. In the cities, this distortion is less pronounced than in the countryside. Although the birth rate in the 1990s had fallen by almost half, the gender disparity has increased by 10%. The total number of boys aged 0-15 years is over a similar age group of females by 18.8 million people.
The third aspect is the share of the working age population. Nowadays, in China, this group of population is aged 15 to 64 years; it reached its peak in 2011 (72.3%), and then began to decline gradually, while at the same time, the share of the younger generation significantly reduced. Consequently, by the year 2020, the proportion of children and young people aged 6-22 years will have fallen from 27.1% to 20.9%.
The fourth aspect of statistics claims that the growth in welfare of the population led to the increase in the average life expectancy of Chinese citizens, reaching 70 years. Currently, in the cities, the life expectancy is 73.7 years for men and 77 years for women. In villages, these numbers are 67.8 and 70.3 years respectively. In 2040–2050, according to the UN projections, the life expectancy among Chinese men will have risen to 76.4, and for women it will reach up to 81 years. The age of an average Chinese is now equal to 30 years old, and in 2050, it would be 43.7 years.
Some more aspects are to be considered when evaluating the necessity of the second child policy in China. It is worth noting that due to poor disease prevention in China, there are still a lot of children born with physical defects. According to a survey conducted in 2014, persons with disabilities totaled 5% of the population, and their number exceeds 60 million people. Another problem that emerged as a consequence of people’s livelihood is violation of the power balance. The cities began to consume less food from the grain and more animal fats. The diet of urban dwellers lack many vitamins and minerals. The comparison of the health parameters of the Chinese and the Japanese showed that Chinese adults, especially men over 40 years, are suffering from excess weight and chronic diseases. These data shows that the permission to have a second child in the family will increase the population of China, thereby leading to lack of space, food, water, and other resources.
Moreover, the birth of children in China is accompanied by another disease issue acquiring serious dimensions. This disease is the AIDS epidemic in China. According to experts, in 2002, the number of infected people was much higher than official data (40560 people) and fluctuated between 800 thousand and 1 million people. The number of infected people is increasing annually by 30%; if the government of China does not take the decisive measures, the disease will have been able to affect 10 million people by 2020. Thus, China could become the country with the largest number of AIDS carriers. As the experience of African countries shows, AIDS is a threat to national security that sows division in society, thereby causing the serious economic damage to both citizens and the state as a whole.
Finally, if the second child in the family is forbidden, the accelerated process of China’s urbanization would be gradually stopped. For now, however, the situation is not positive compared to the past experiences. In 1949, only 10.64% were living in Chinese cities, while in 2005, the townspeople numbered almost 43% of the total Chinese population. According to the forecasts of experts of the United Nations, the population in the cities and towns of China will have grown up to 712 million by 2020, and in 2030, it will have been up to 884 million people (in percentage terms, this figure is as follows: 49.1% and 59.1% of the total population). In general, the rate of urban population growth in China meets the global urbanization trend. This aspect is among the most paramount ones due to the fact that the birth of the second child in the family will cause the burst of urbanization.
According to the scholarly forecasts, the scientists suggest that the population of China, which constituted 1.266 billion people in 2000, will gradually grow. During the period of 2015 and 2035, its population will be over 1.4 and 1.5 billion people, and by 2040, it will have reached its peak of 1.519 billion. Afterward, it will begin to decline, but it will still remain within 1.5 billion people. According to other investigations, the maximum population will be in 2035, and in 2036, it will start to decline, while in 2050, the population will total 1.404 billion people. Hence, to prevent all the possible negative consequences, the Chinese government should pay attention to the issue of child birth in the country and strictly control it.
The Essence of the Second Child Policy
The policy of family planning intends to exercise effective governance over the population size by regulating marital childbearing. Official data of the State Statistical Office of the PRC show that the birth rate of China’s population in 1970 was 33.59%, and it decreased to 12.37% in 2014 due to the success of the second child policy. However, population reproduction has extremely increased the total power of the state. On the other hand, to date, there were negative effects of family planning manifested in recent years. For more than three decades, China’s male population has been significantly higher than the female one. One-child family due to its fragility takes a great deal of risk. The Statistical Yearbook of Health of China in 2015 published by the National Health and Family Planning Committee of China shows that in China, annually the number of families who lost their only child runs to 76,000. Throughout the country, the total number of these families exceeds the number of one million. In fact, the provided nursing resources in China to a large extent are transforming resources from the family of procreation.
Although in 2014 the government took the first significant step when it increased efforts of financial support to a family who has lost their only child, but a fundamental solution to these dependency problems relating to the affected families is still reliant on the related extended new family policy represented by the second child policy. This issue is connected with the aging of the population. In essence, the younger generation has to work to sustain the elderly.
In today’s China, the problem of the aging population is already outside the scope of the research of scientists since it became the focus of public debate. China became operational in the elderly community in 1999 by the Head of the Institute of Population and Labor of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Recently, they announced a set of data according to which in China, the population aged 60 years and over in 2015 is 222 million persons, and it takes 16.16% of the total population; in 2020, this number will have been 256 million people and will have translated into 18.28%. Furthermore, in 2040, it will have been 441 million people, covering 32.11%. Finally, in 2050, 492 million persons will live, which is 37.88%.
The voice of the scientific community in China about improving family planning policy and the abolition of a ban on a second child has been continuing for a long time. Development of family policy, which will be able to cope with rapid population aging trend, is already an urgent task. In this regard, at the end of 2013, the government officially broke the formula of ‘one family – one child,’ and allowed giving birth to a second child in the family. However, two years later, paradoxically, statistics show that the number of newborns in 2015 did not increase compared to 2014 but decreased. In Beijing, in October 2015, there were made significant adjustments to the policy of family planning. They adopted a formal decision on the birth of a second child in the family. Apparently, it is difficult to immediately and accurately forecast how effective is the new demographic policy on easing the population pressure. Nonetheless, the achievement of expected results and the effect are dependent on the follow-up support and government regulations in other areas of family life such as education, health, housing, and others. For example, maternity leave in China is 98 days. If the government renews this number, it will inevitably lead to an increase in fertility of population. However, all this requires careful analysis and accurate calculation. The reason is that groundless increase will cause difficulty in the employment of women. In any case, it should be noted that the moderate and comprehensive policy of child welfare is still not established in China.
An important achievement of family security in China is still in the fact that in recent years, a system for ensuring the subsistence level of the population has been formed, which includes a number of policies aimed at different sectors of family life, namely the labor unit, basic pension, supplementary benefits for the elderly, and others. Intervention and support are two sides of the relationship of the Chinese government to the family problem and the issue of the second child in the families. Previously, China has most often seen government intervention in family matters with power politics and injustice. Hence, analyzing the problem of the second child policy in China, it is possible to state that the government of PRC needs to perform the indirect interference, i.e. not in a forced way, while the family needs to be provided with the necessary support. The improvement and reform of China’s second child policy must be grounded on the breakthrough of the current administrative system so that it is necessary to create a special body to ensure that family policy and implementation functions, finally, make a change in the type of latent family policy to explicitly.
Discussion and Analysis
In the 1980s, in China’s demographic policy, the emphasis was placed on the implementation of the course of the late marriage and late birth to a small but healthy offspring. The Constitution of 1982 introduced other duties of citizens provided for birth control, and in 2001, the ban was backed by law, introducing economic sanctions against families who wish to have more than one child. In the largest cities, the policy of ‘one family – one child’ produced tangible results.
Since 1985, the birth rate in the country changed. The further growth of the economic welfare of the population allowed many families, disrupt the establishment of ‘one family – one child,’ regardless of sanctions (a fine of 2.5 thousand dollars for the birth of the second child, deprivation of social grants for treatment and subsequent formation of the child, and the loss of prospects for parents on improving service).
At the present time, especially after the terrible earthquake in Sichuan, a considerable number of Chinese scholars inclined to the idea that the government should allow Chinese families to have two children. In their opinion, this will not only reduce social discontent but also expand the gene pool of potential talent. As China is big enough, internal migration prevents the acquisition of the reliable birth statistics, particularly newborn records with foreign registration. Migration has become a loophole to increase the so-called unregistered children. In 2005, China had conducted a sample survey of 1% of the population, which showed that the migration flow has exceeded 147 million people. As a result, there was an enhanced uneven regional distribution of the population. The influx into the city of unskilled labor from the countryside, on the one hand, allows lowering the cost of manufacturing. On the other hand, it inhibits the introduction of new technologies and the growth of productivity and quality of work. High rates of population growth in modern China are accompanied by negative factors, and in many ways they are provoked by the growth of food shortages, exhaustion of natural resources, and pollution of the environment. Demographic and environmental conditions are interrelated so that their balance is one of the aims to be achieved on the way to county’s development.
It is obvious that the law banning the birth of a second child cannot solve the problem of the shortage of food, energy, arable land and water that is closely related to population growth. The need to increase the area of agricultural land to boost food production leads to deforestation, climate change and increasing pressure on water resources. Rapid population growth places a heavy burden on Chinese society since a large part of the growing national income is absorbed by the high birth rate, which slows down the rate of increase in the population’s welfare. The orientation of the economy to raw materials export leads to a misallocation of resources and environmental pollution. To break this cycle, China pays great attention to birth control, but the creation of conditions for the solution of the problem does not mean that the problem will disappear automatically. Hence, the second child policy is an arguable approach since it functions in the way that if positive effects of this policy are evident (the economic growth of the country), there will appear numerous negative ones (such as territories and food shortages among others).