Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Aging Population and Gender Imbalance: China’s One-Child Policy

One Child Policy

China Releases First Census Results In Ten Years

China last month released it's first census data in ten years and some of the key results are:

  • Total Population:1,370,536,875
  • Annual growth rate: 0.57 percent in the decade to 2010
  • Aging Population: Aged 60 or more accounting for 13.26 percent, 2.93 percentage points higher than in 2000.
  • Rapid urbanization: 49.7 percent live in urban areas 36.09 percent in 2000
  • Gender Imbalance: 105.20 males for every 100 females
  • Improved Education Outcome: People with a university education is 8,930 per 100,000, 2.5 times more than in 2000

The key results confirm several things concerning the demographic makeup of China that have concerned observers  over the last decade, namely that China's so called "one child" policy is working successfully in reducing the rate of population growth but has potentially serious ramifications for China's future makeup.

Before expanding on that I would like to point out some serious misunderstandings of China's "One Child Policy" which are held in some quarters in the west.

China does have a "One Child policy", that is, it has put in place programmes that provides disincentives to Chinese couples from having more than one child. Many who think the policy forces abortions upon couples are totally wrong. To achieve success of the policy the government, for example, will not enroll other than the first child  into the residence registration system. This causes Chinese families great difficulty for schooling, medical and many other issues if they have more than one child. Even this does not apply for all Chinese residents as there are exemptions from this for rural residents and people of  the ethnic minorities.

Nonetheless the Chinese historically and culturally place great importance on male children, they are the "dynasty makers". As well, they are the Chinese form of superannuation as male children, unlike females, are culturally expected to take care of there parents financially in old age. As a result there is gender "engineering" occurring by way of selective abortions and the practice, still rife, of concealing female births and abandoning the child.

Therefore, whilst the policy is achieving it's goals of reducing population growth, the downside is the ageing of the population, with all the attendant problems, and the potentially serious problems of gender imbalance as it relates to psychological and criminal issues. 

Thus there has been much discussion internally in China as to how the balance can be better struck. Senior government ministers including the premier have alluded to fine tuning being required but still firmly stand by the primary objective of the policy, that is, the reduction in the rate of population increase to promote sustainability and social stability in the long term.

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