One-Child Revisions?

China instituted a one-child policy in 1979. The current generation of Chinese families rarely boasts a multiple-child family. The fine for having a second child is exorbitant, approximating an average person’s salary for a whole year by some accounts. For the small rich minority, the fine is no problem, but the majority of China’s 1.3 billion residents are restricted by this and other measures from having multiple children.

One of our textbooks has an essay devoted to this topic, or more exactly, devoted to discussing the benefits of this system. Children now are better cared for by their parents without competition from siblings. There is more food for them to eat, and more resources can be devoted to their education.

Obviously in the wake of the massive famine in the 60’s, the current order seems to be an improvement. But is it the result of the new population measures? Is it even a direct result of the Reform and Opening movement that is so often heralded as the new beginning for China? Or have other global forces been more direct agents for China’s growth and prosperity rather than national policy?

Our teacher today even expressed her own doubts about the one-child policy. If there are 4 grandparents, 2 parents, and one baby, there is a tremendous burden placed on the two working parents to support a family of 7, and afterwards on the child itself. Economic policy also exacerbates the challenges. The mandatory retirement age here is 50 for blue-collar women, 55 for other female workers, and 60 for men. Saving like crazy for a 20 to 30 (or 40!) year retirement is a huge concern. No wonder people pick through garbage cans with methodical patience in their spare time, dredging up pennies by finding a piece of cardboard here, a plastic bottle there.

Our teacher also said there is talk of reforming the policy (only talk, no actual measures as far as she knew). Perhaps doctoral degree holders should be permitted a second child, so the rationale goes, since they can provide a learned environment within which to raise another child. One wonders if this will really solve any problems, or just create resentment among the classes?

At least there seems to be some willingness to address the social challenges at hand, and perhaps revise the restrictive policy if the need can be proven pressing enough. Now is a time of unprecedented change in China- surprising and swift change is undoubtedly in the cards, if they choose to play them so.

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2 Responses to “One-Child Revisions?”


  1. 1 Chris Burgwald November 29, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    I’d never heard about the low mandatory retirement age in China… any idea what the cultural/political genesis of that is?

  2. 2 mjfalk December 6, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    In Yanji City while we were teaching Converstaional English, the Chinese teachers at the trade school there were working with the understanding that when they reached retirement age they would continue to receive their salary for the rest of their lives. We were only there for 10 months—not long enough to be around to see the policy carried out.


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