Greg Baker/AP

Chinese Want More Babies, But Government Still Says No

January 21, 2009 09:00 AM
by Rachel Balik
A survey finds that 70 percent of Chinese women wish they could have at least two children, a desire countered by China’s restrictive birth control policies.

Chinese Women Long for More Than One Child

China’s National Family Planning Commission conducted a 2006 study that indicated that most Chinese families would like to have at least two children. The study was released for the first time this month; according to the BBC, the researchers found that 70.7 percent of women want two children, and 83 percent expressed the desire for both a son and a daughter. However, China’s laws restrict 36 percent of families to having only one child. (Farming couples are permitted a second child if the first is a girl, and ethnic minorities may have multiple children.) Fines are issued for policy violations.

Background: Chinese Refuse to Change Policy, Despite Disadvantages

Since many Chinese families prefer sons to daughters, the policy has led to a gender imbalance in China. In 2007, authorities acknowledged that sex-selective abortions have resulted in the births of 130 boys per 100 girls in some regions, compared to a worldwide average of 104 or 107 boys per 100 girls. The government has been determined not to change the one child per family policy, mainly because controlling the population has been instrumental to the country’s development and economic success. Alternative solutions, reported by The Washington Post, included financial incentives for parents who had female children, such as stipends for school or retirement packages.

Gender imbalance, though inconvenient, pales in comparison to the devastation experienced by many parents who lost their only child during the Sichuan earthquake, in May 2008. Parents assailed rescuers with desperate cries, begging them to save their “only” child, the Independent reported. Because of the one-child policy, many families were left childless after the quake.
Prior to the earthquake, Chinese officials indicated that they were considering reversing the policy. China has thrived due to its low fertility rate, but now, as the population gets older, China must take care to avoid having the old outweigh the young, The New York Times said. But Chinese officials have only agreed to begin with minor alterations, not a reversal of the policy. A major uptick in the population would potentially hinder China’s economic growth.

The New England Journal of Medicine reported in 2005 that although growth has slowed considerably, the Chinese population was still increasing, at a rate of 10 million per year.

Related Topic: Fertility Rates Drop Worldwide

Conversely, Japan is so anxious about its dropping fertility rate that companies there are limiting work hours and encouraging employees to go home and make babies. Typically, the Japanese are more inclined to spend hours at their jobs or at bars than with spouses or families.

Similarly, in Hungary, where fewer people are getting married and more are emigrating, the country is concerned about a shrinking fertility rate and a reduced population. But experts note that trends can change. In other European countries, such as the U.K., birth rates are actually on the rise.

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