China's controversial "one-child" policy drew heated debate recently at the annual meeting of the country's legislature and its top political advisory body.
Several representatives suggested relaxing the policy to allow families to have a second child if either parent was an only child. Wang Yuqing, a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) member and deputy chairman of CPPCC Committee of Population, Resources and Environment, predicted that the "two-child" policy may be expanded to urban areas by the end of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2016).
Proposed reforms of China's population management policies have sparked much discussion in recent years. Family planning is one of China's core policy initiatives. It is of vital importance to the nation's economic development and the people's livelihood. Children are the center of the family structure and the basis of a happy family. The balanced, coordinated and sustainable development of the population impacts the sustainable development of society as a whole. Raising healthier, better children is an aspiration of every household. As such, this topic deserves careful consideration.
China's "one-child" policy began September 25, 1980, when the Communist Party of China's (CPC) Central Committee sent an open letter to all members of the CPC and the Communist Youth League. The letter called on couple to have one child. This suggestion later became mandatory as local governments implemented the policy. Since then, China has entered a period of imbalanced population growth under the "one-child" family planning policy. A substantial decline in fertility and rapid demographic transition will bring some benefits. With fewer children, families and the government can invest more money and resources per child in their upbringing, improving the quality of their education and development. However, there is no strong evidence to prove that only children are more successful than those with siblings. On the contrary, in non-academic areas such as character, emotion, morality and determination, research and experience shows that children with siblings outperform only children.
After more than 30 years of strictly implementing the one-child policy, its drawbacks loom large. The apparent benefits of a smaller population are essentially a liability for future generations. China now faces a demographic imbalance. Some people argue that the change from high to low birth rate has lowered the child dependency ratio, but they are confusing these demographic benefits for a demographic window of opportunity.
These demographic benefits, in essence, stem from the economic growth and social benefits achieved through increased human capital investment. This investment, however, cannot be sustained. Thanks to the growing proportion of senior citizens, in several decades, the workforce will be graying and the ratio of the retired to those of working age is sure to rise. Since 2004, I have come to the conclusion that a family with only one child is essentially a "risky family." A society composed of families with only child, then, is a "risky society." If the only child dies or gets sick, the family will inevitably fall upon hard times.
Poor family structure can lead to loneliness or coldness. Growing up without a sibling may causes imbalances between intellectual and non-intellectual qualities, such as morality and empathy. The desire for a son also causes gender imbalance. The lack of young adults can cause shortages in supply of labor, and also may make it difficult for coming generations to take care of the elderly. This policy also incurs other significant social costs such as violating the right to bear children, causing tension between the government and the people, requiring large administrative expenditures, and risking the collapse of the traditional pension system. In view of these drawbacks, the compulsory one-child policy is not worth it. The policy focus should be shifted from numbers to people.