This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

China Now Pushes For More Children

A story this weekend in the NYTimes discusses new moves by the Chinese government to encourage a rise in the birth rate, since the continued low birth rate is leading to a rapidly aging and eventually declining population. The one-child policy has been scrapped in favor of a two-child ideal, but Chinese couples are not hopping on the baby wagon in great numbers.

Now, keep in mind that fertility was already declining pretty rapidly in China before the implementation of the one-child policy back in the late 1970s, so the government may have helped to lower the birth rate, but its nasty, repressive policies were not the underlying cause of the low birth rate. This is at least one reason why lifting the one-child policy hasn't yet encouraged an increase in the birth rate. So, it may be that the government is going to get nasty again.
The new campaign has raised fear that China may go from one invasive extreme to another in getting women to have more children. Some provinces are already tightening access to abortion or making it more difficult to get divorced. 
“To put it bluntly, the birth of a baby is not only a matter of the family itself, but also a state affair,” the official newspaper People’s Daily said in an editorial this week, prompting widespread criticism and debate online.
A plan to end the two-child limit was floated during the legislative session in Beijing last spring and now appears to be under consideration with other measures, the National Health Commission said in a statement.
Experts say the government has little choice but to encourage more births. China — the world’s most populous nation with more than 1.4 billion people — is aging quickly, with a smaller work force left to support a growing elderly population that is living longer. Some provinces have already reported difficulties meeting pension payments.
It is unclear whether lifting the two-child limit now will make much of a difference. As in many countries, educated women in Chinese cities are postponing childbirth as they pursue careers. Young couples are also struggling with economic pressures, including rising housing and education costs.
It is my hope that these and related issues are being discussed among demographers attending this year's American Sociological Association meetings in Philadelphia. I'm sorry I can't be there to contribute. 

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