China may scrap two-child limit: Report

China appears poised to scrap its two-child policy, with a state-run newspaper on Monday (Aug 27) citing a draft civil code that would overhaul decades of controversial family-planning rules.

The wide-ranging code would end a policy that has been enforced through fines but was also notorious for cases of forced abortions and sterilization in the world’s most populous country.

The code would get rid of a policy that has been enforced through fines but was also notorious for cases of forced abortions and sterilization in the world’s most populous country.

The code omits any reference to “family planning” — the current policy which limits couples to having no more than two children.

Other proposed changes include a one-month cooling off period before a divorce, during which either party can withdraw their application.

The long history of limits on the number of children a couple can have:

The Communist Party began enforcing a one-child policy in 1979 to slow population growth. The limit was raised to two children in 2016 as the nation scrambled to rejuvenate its greying population of some 1.4 billion.

Concerns are mounting that an aging and shrinking workforce could slow down its economy, while gender imbalances could lead to social problems. Also, childbirths have not increased as much as forecast since the two-child policy came into force.

One child policy was adopted by China in 1979 out of the Malthusian fears that unchecked population growth would lead to economic and environmental catastrophe. It was also a response to concerns about food shortages.

Thomas Robert Malthus was the first economist to propose a systematic theory of population. He articulated his views regarding the population in his famous book, Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), for which he collected empirical data to support his thesis. He argued that if left unchecked, a population will outgrow its resources, leading to a host of problems.

China has a population of over 1.4 billion, 30% of which is over the age of 50. There is also a huge gender imbalance. Now, China needs more people joining the workforce. The working population in China is coming down and the elderly population is going up. So Communist Party of China has changed one-child policy to a two-child policy as the country is looking further ahead than China to have larger families.

What’s good about One Child Policy?

  • Helps to ease the overpopulation problems.
  • It is seen as practical by some families.
  • Lowers the poverty rate.

Why isn’t it a good idea?

  • The enforcement is unequal.
  • It is a human rights violation.
  • Shrinking work population.
  • Gender imbalance due to the strong cultural preference of boys for labor and work.
  • Increase in abortions and female infanticide.
  • Extra babies end up being illegal and never becoming a citizen, due to fines.
  • Intrudes on people’s personal values and opinions.

The implications of such a policy being enforced in India would surely have been more disastrous than it did in China.

India is way behind China in basic development indicators like life expectancy, IMR, and maternal mortality rate. The preference of a male child, the regional disparities in development, and the growing intolerance against minorities in the present milieu would be further magnified with the state entering homes and enforcing such strict norms.

The fact that women are at the receiving end of such policies in a patriarchal society is another story in itself. The burden of limiting family size falls on the woman, and most often female sterilizations are promoted rather than giving the couple the choice of contraception.

Limiting family size cannot be an end in itself at the neglect of basic needs and services like food security, housing, education, and health. It is important for a state to universalize these basic services than to impose a diktat of population control. When China imposed a one-child policy, it had already created a strong base for its population, despite which the consequences were severe. Therefore, it would be disastrous for India to even walk that path.

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