China Fumbling to Fix It’s Family Planning Mess

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

Reliable sources are predicting that the People’s Republic of China may be ending it’s notorious family planning program altogether as early as the end of this year due to the demographic nightmare it created after four decades of severely restricting births.

China Digital Times is reporting on the convoluted mess the government of China created for itself by restricting births to just one or two children in an effort to control their population. The draconian policy, which involved nearly 40 years of rounding up pregnant women like cattle and forcing them to have abortions, has left the country with a declining work force and an aging population for which there are too few workers to support.

Citing a report by Dandan Li of Bloomberg News, the State Council, China’s cabinet, has commissioned research on the repercussions of ending the policy nationwide in order to reduce the pace of aging in China’s population as well as get rid of a major source of international human rights criticism.

The problem is that regardless of what they do to suddenly reverse themselves and begin to promote births in the country, it will still take decades to reverse the disastrous effects of 40 years of rigid population control.

Mei Fong, writing for the Lowy Institute, says China’s policies have resulted in creating a population that is too male, too old, and too few to sustain strong economic growth. At the present time, there are more single men in China than the total population of Australia (30 million) and by 2050, they will have a retiree population larger than all of Europe.

“China’s rulers – impervious to criticisms of human rights abuse during the policy’s implementation – have been undoing the policy because it needs to replenish the country’s shrinking stock of workers,” Fong writes. “But even if, and this is a big ‘if’, there is a significant uptick in births, those babies will take about twenty years to mature, which won’t solve China’s current gender imbalance or eldercare issues.”

In fact, previous attempts to loosen the policy, such as when the government relaxed it’s one-child policy a few years ago, did not result in more births. In 2017, the number of births actually fell.

One of the reasons for this is that urban families have begun to like the idea of having no children. Referred to as DINKs (Double Income, No Kids) families, Huang Shuyue, a certified marriage counselor based in the southern province of Guangdong, told Fan Yiying of Sixth Tone that she’s seeing more and more millennials who are choosing the DINK lifestyle to focus on their careers or because they don’t want the stress and cost of raising children.

“My clients in their 30s and 40s are enjoying their DINK lifestyles,” Huang says. “Being DINK in China will inevitably mean facing pressure from your family and society, as the importance of having children is so deeply rooted in Chinese culture.”

She encourages her clients to have children, saying that parenthood is “an indispensable life experience” that doesn’t have to preclude work and other life goals.

But in rural areas, the pervasive gender imbalance and pressure to care for the elderly population has contributed to a different kind of problem – a sharp rise in early marriages and teenage pregnancies.

“The report Population Status of Children in China in 2015, published by UNICEF, shows this trend,” writes Yuhong Pang for The Diplomat. “Among 75 million adolescents between 15-19 years old, 1.2 million were married, and teenage women were married at twice the rate of young men. One in every 10 rural women aged 19 or below is married.”

Throughout the country, China’s demographic disaster is causing sky-high costs of living and long work hours, which only adds to some couple’s hesitancy to have children. Even worse for Chinese women, a recent survey found that 33 percent of them had their pay cut after giving birth and 36 percent were demoted, reports the Washington Post.

This treatment has spurred what some are calling a new feminist awakening in China. Leta Hong Fincher, author of Leftover Women and Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China, believes that even if the government changes its existing family planning restrictions, it will still do everything in its power to control women’s procreation.

“Whatever the demographic program, China’s Communist Party will continue to view women as reproductive agents of the state,” Fincher writes in this Twitter feed.

The bottom line is that even if it were possible to fix this mess, who believes that the same people who created it will come up with a way to fix it?

Unfortunately for the Chinese people, at this point, the only person who can fix this convoluted catastrophe is the one person their communist manifesto refuses to recognize – the Creator – whose plans they’ve been meddling in for much too long.

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