The Chinese government is abandoning its 35-year running one-child policy due to the country’s decreasing fertility rate and graying population.
Since the introduction of the one-child policy, forced abortions and sterilizations have been common, although not endorsed or recommended by the government explicitly. The restriction lift is estimated to affect 100 million couples.
According to David McKenzie of CNN, the restriction lift was the result of a four-day long strategy meeting of top Communist Party officials. The Xinhua news agency reported that it aims to make population growth more balanced:
“China will continue to uphold the basic national policy of population control and improve its strategy on population development… China will fully implement the policy of ‘one couple, two children’ in a proactive response to the issue of an aging population.”
In the 1990s, the Chinese government introduced family planning as a way to help citizens abide by its one-child policy. However, as Adam Taylor for the Washington Post says, officials at local and provincial level took advantage of parents wishing to have more children and demanded bribes for not taking action against them.
Presently, China is home to 1.3 billion people. The decision will go through the National People’s Congress in March 2016 before officially coming into effect. While the policy scrapping has been a response to the country’s ageing population, Wang Feng, a demographic expert at the University of California, Irvine, says that the low fertility rate, which is estimated at 1.2 to 1.5 children per woman, will not drastically improve because of the ban lift. She points out at that many families consciously make the one-child decision in view of the harsh socioeconomic situation that makes raising a family a costly matter, the Guardian reports.
Numerous stories of suffering have been recorded and brought to light over the 35 years the policy has been enforced. During this time, the policy has been implemented through forced abortions, mandatory sterilizations and fines for parents who have broken the rule. The policy also allowed many corrupt officials to accept bribes from parents to turn a blind eye to their situations.
The human rights advocacy organization Amnesty International says the two-children-per-couple rule is not enough in completely eradicating incidents of forced abortions and sterilizations, Steven Jiang and Susannah Cullinane report for CNN.
StraitTimes.com delineated stories of couples who experienced one-child policy enforcement in the 1970s. As it is noted, the ban reversal comes late for an entire generation of people who are now forced to depend on a single child.
Tom Phillips, reporting from Beijing for The Guardian, featured several stories of young couples and how the news of the one-child policy lift have been warmly welcomed by many women and men who now are considering trying for a second baby. Many women expressed their excitement through social updates on Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging social network.