China's population

From being an economic boon, one-child policy may breed a serious social problem

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 November, 2015, 4:12pm

The mainland's one-child policy has fostered a buying spree in children's products as adults pour out their love for the young.

The country started to implement population control in the 1970s, giving benefits to couples who had only one child.

The government hoped the family planning policy could ease the country's economic and social problems at a time when state leaders were pledging to improve people's livelihoods.

From its implementation to 2000, the authorities said, the policy had prevented more than 250 million births. It had also led to an increasing number of forced abortions and female infanticide, some analysts saying it had caused a significant gender imbalance.

While it drew charges of human rights violations, the one-child policy was a golden bonanza for manufacturers and retailers.

As families were forced to focus on quality rather than quantity of children, the adults, rich and poor alike, lavished their offspring with whatever they could afford, from clothes and food to education.

Such spending and the stress that comes with growing affluence have made many young couples unwilling to have a second child. Many young urban couples now say: 'We can't afford a second child.'

The preciousness of the only child has also increased competition among children, whose intense learning journey begins before they enter primary school - from art lessons and music classes to English and mathematics.

Parents, or grandparents, will claim their child is a genius in a certain field, while his or her deficiencies are invisible to them.

In some families nowadays, four grandparents take care of one grandchild, and they are pleased to spend most of their pension money on the children.

The typical Chinese mother in the early 1950s had more than six children, in line with the government thinking that a bigger population reflected a more powerful country.

The one-child policy caused a dramatic fertility decline. According to a report by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Chinese women's overall fertility rate is now well below the self-reproductive level of 2.1.

As the one-child policy continues, a serious social problem may arise in the coming decades.

One adult child may have to provide support for two parents and four grandparents.

The senior citizens will have to depend on a very small family for financial support.