China has relaxed its one-child policy, but women aren’t having more children.
China has relaxed its one-child policy, but women aren’t having more children.

China faces surprising new crisis

FOR THE first time in 35 years, the Chinese government wants its urban citizens to reproduce.

Two years ago, the communist party finally loosened what was arguably its most intrusive venture into Chinese citizens' private lives - the one-child policy.

Instead the goverment is now targeting educated women, urging them to have multiple children amid fears of an ageing labour force.

But despite how controversial - and brutal - the original policy was, the latest data on childbirth in China is not what you might expect.

WHY CHINA RELAXED ITS ONE-CHILD POLICY

China's one-child policy was established in 1979 by then-leader Deng Xiaoping. It was brought in as a means of population control, restricting couples in China to just one child.

Citizens who gave birth to more children faced fines, forced abortions and coercive sterilisations.

This combined with a cultural preference for male heirs created a prevailing nationwide gender imbalance; female infants were often aborted, abandoned or put up for adoption.

Consequentially, there's an estimated 115 males for every 100 females in China's 1.37 billion population today. It's estimated that by 2020 here will be 30 million more young men than women in China.

The Chinese government discourages single parenting, emphasising the importance of "whole" families. This largely affects single women, who are often stigmatised if they remain single after a certain age.

But social statistics in urban areas in China still show a tendency to leave marriage and children until later in life.

This presents a whole new headache for the Chinese government.

FAILED ATTEMPTS TO ENCOURAGE CHILD-BEARING

At the end of 2015, 35 years after the one-child policy came into effect, the Chinese government relaxed the rules and allowed urban couples to have two children.

This was in essence because the government was facing new problems: the Chinese population was ageing and the workforce was drastically shrinking.

It's predicted that one in three Chinese people will be aged over 60 by 2050.

The Chinese government, led by Xi Jinping, is trying to encourage educated urban women to have children.
The Chinese government, led by Xi Jinping, is trying to encourage educated urban women to have children.

According to state media, the Chinese government was hoping to add more than 30 million new workers to the labour force by then.

The government has accordingly begun promoting parenthood to their target audience, encouraging women to start having children in their mid-20s.

The New York Timespoints to a large advertisement promoted by the Beijing Youth Daily, the official publication of the Communist Youth League, which features a photo of a female silhouette in a graduation cap and gown holding a baby.

This is the photo that ran in the Beijing Youth Daily.
This is the photo that ran in the Beijing Youth Daily.

A republished version of the story in the People's Daily says that the pregnant women at Beijing Unviersity College have an advantage in the workplace.

In one example, the article describes the interviewer of a pharmaceutical company asking a female graduate student if she has a partner whom she plans to marry. The girl responds saying they're waiting until they're stable.

"The interviewer put her resume aside, and the interview was over in less than a minute," the article says.

It's quite a dramatic turn when you consider the propaganda posters of the last three decades, with slogans bearing everything from "Fewer and better births, a service to the nation" to "Three days after giving birth to the second child, mothers should be sterilised".

But surprisingly, these new efforts are failing to fulfil their desired intention.

Despite moves to fully end the one-child policy, China's birthrate actually dropped by 3.5 per cent last year, with just over 17 million new babies born.

Economic pressures, a greater emphasis on investing in children's education, access to childcare and baby formula, and delaying marriage seem to be deterring urban couples from having multiple children.

The Chinese government wants its citizens to have more children.
The Chinese government wants its citizens to have more children.

A 2016 survey of 10,000 respondents across 10 provinces in China found that more than half of couples with one child did not want another. In wealthy areas, this ratio rose to over 60 per cent.

While there is no available data on the rates of employment discrimination against women in China, it is an ugly reality.

According to the United Nations Human Rights Council, employers in China are guilty of choosing only to hire women who already have children, denying pregnant statutory leave, or dismissing women during pregnancy.



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