12 November 2014
Family Planning in China: Rough Draft/Peer Copy
Family planning in China has been ultimately beneficial to help control the population in the overcrowded country. The population of China has declined since the policy first took effect in 1979, statistics show that the birth rate has gone down dramatically and may even be cut in half by the year 2050 (Anders). Some people see the policy as too harsh and that it infringes on the people’s rights, but many Chinese feel that it is fair and even if they were allowed to have as many children as they wanted, they would still choose only to have one (Levin). In this paper I will write about the many advantages of family planning, such as: the population control, the policy is gradually eradicating poverty, increased benefits for men and women, and it helped accelerate modernization; I will also discuss the problems that the Chinese government faced as the policy went in effect, for example: a demographic and sex imbalance, a decreased fertility rate, female infanticide, and an increasing amount of elderly compared to youth, or the 4-2-1 problem. Since the policy has first been introduced, Chinese officials have lightened the rules and now many of the problems have diminished. China's population-control policy was introduced in 1979 and restricts couples in urban areas to only one child. In rural areas, families are allowed to have two children if the first is a girl. Other exceptions include ethnic minorities and couples who both lack siblings themselves .The policy has meant that about one-third of China's 1.3 billion citizens cannot have a second child without incurring a fine (Dvorsky). The first reason that family planning has been beneficial, is that the population has been controlled; while it is still growing (China is home to almost 1/5th of the population), the birth rate has dropped significantly (Family). The Chinese government stated that since the late 1970s, family planning has reduced births per year by roughly 400 million (Anders). The policy has also been beneficial in that China's fertility rate had fallen from 5.8 births per woman in 1970 to 2.8 births per woman in 1980, and now 1.5 births per woman in 2014 (Anders). This has improved China’s overpopulation by lowering population growth by around 24% since 2001 (Population), compared to the rising population growth in the United States, which raised two percent since 2001 (Population). This shows that China’s family planning policy has been successful in the way of controlling its population and decreasing the birth rate by preventing women to have only one or two children. Another point in which family planning is helpful, is that it is eradicating poverty. Raising a child in China cost roughly 25,000 yuan, or 4,030 U.S dollars, this is the equivalent of an average Chinese parent’s yearly income. By implementing the family planning policy, parents are less “burdened” by any financial hardships that would come with a second or third child. Having fewer, healthier children can reduce the economic burden on poor families and allow them to invest more in each child’s care and schooling, helping to break the cycle of poverty (UNFPA). A study by a family planning organization showed that families living in villages with expanded family planning services had lower fertility and had prospered much more than families in villages with routine health services, where fertility remained higher. The smaller families had higher incomes and more savings. Youth in the lower-fertility villages had also completed more education, key for earning higher incomes as adults. This being said, China’s one child policy has helped rural towns become less dragged down in the economic challenges faced with having several children (Kent). A third reason that this policy is successful is that it gives Chinese families more benefits. A woman can receive paid pregnancy leave for up to three years, couples can get a five to ten percent salary increase, the entire family is given free health care, the child’s education is paid for, the family is placed in preferential housing, and the couple receives higher retirement pensions (Bluett 2). In addition to these benefits, rule-abiding parents can get a monthly stipend, preferential hospital treatment, first choice for government jobs, extra land allowances and, in some case, free homes and a ton of free water a month (Watts). The Chinese government has even gone to the extent of giving the children of citizens who conform to the policy extra points on their middle school entrance exams (Kent). Many families choose to have only one child for many reasons, and the benefits received from having only one, can make the parent’s decision. The fourth and final reason that family planning in China is beneficial is that it helped to accelerate modernization. Since there is a high price on education in China that many families cannot afford, many women and children are illiterate, so by limiting the number of kids that a family can have, and by earning the benefits from doing so, women’s literacy rate has increased by almost 40 percent since the policy has been in effect (Literacy). With this increased literacy rate, there has been more room for new innovations and ideas to surface; this also results in women having more job opportunities and climbing higher in their job positions, such as more female CEO’s. Some people feel like family planning in China is destructive and hurts more people than is worth it. Some of the issues of this policy include a demographic and sex imbalance, a decreased fertility rate, female infanticide, and the 4-2-1 problem. The first problem that the Chinese government faced was a demographic and sex imbalance. Many more baby boys are born in China than baby girls. China is not unique in this; other countries, notably India, have encountered similar problems without coercive population controls. But Chinese officials do not dispute that the one-child policy has played a role. China's strong cultural imperative for male offspring has led many families to do whatever they must to ensure that their one permissible child is a son. In the earliest days of the one-child policy, this sometimes meant female infanticide. As ultrasound technology spread, sex-selective abortions became widespread. The new census data show that little progress is being made to counter this trend. There were more than 118 boys for every 100 girls in 2010. This marks a slight increase over the 2000 level, and implies that, in about 20 or 25 years' time, there will not be enough brides for almost a fifth of today's boys (Census). The second problem is the decreased fertility in women. In past years Chinese women were expected to have around 5.8 children per person; China’s fertility rate has fallen to an estimated 1.5 children per couple, in line with the European average but below the 2.1 that maintains a constant population and is more normal for a country at China’s stage of development (Anders). With China ageing quickly, a higher birth rate is needed to underpin long-term social and economic stability. In the past, the state used harsh methods to stop its citizens having babies. In the future, it will have to find clever ways to encourage people to have them. Other countries, not least neighboring Japan, have struggled with that (UNFPA). Another issue, that is perhaps the biggest of them all, is the issue of female infanticide. This problem is also related to the sex imbalance. The Chinese government began to modify the policy in the mid-1980s, allowing a second child in families whose first child was either a girl or disabled. This pairing of "girl" and "disabled" is hardly an accident. Masculinity is the crux of Chinese society - sons not only carry on the family line, they also are expected to provide for their parents in old age. A daughter, once she marries, is obligated only to her husband's family. In other words, parents cannot rely on a daughter to help them in their old age. This dynamic combined with a one-child policy plus the kind of harsh economic realities often found in rural Chinese villages does not engender much love for daughters. The social message: Survival depends on sons, and daughters are only a burden. Given the ability to know the sex of their unborn children, many parents aborted female fetuses. Sadly, such abortions do not account for all of the missing girls in China. In Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth, there is a scene where a Chinese father hears the first cry of his second daughter, followed by silence; sitting in another room unable to see what has happened, he nevertheless realizes his wife has killed their newborn girl. This may be fiction, but it is based on China's long history of infanticide. Terence H. Hull, a demographer and epidemiologist at the Australian National University, writes in his study, Recent Trends in Sex Ratios at Birth in China, "Two centuries ago the practice of exposing female infants to the elements was conducted openly, and missionaries recorded that thousands of such infants were abandoned in the streets of Beijing to be collected regularly by carriers who placed them in a large common grave outside the city." Between 1851 and 1948, about 5 percent of female babies were killed in this way (Scutti). Although female infanticide is rare these days, the intentional elimination of female offspring may still be occurring in a more insidious fashion: through slow starvation, ongoing neglect of sick girls or even complete abandonment (Scutti). Infanticide in itself is a huge problem; this ultimately leads to many of the other problems we see. The 4-2-1 problem surrounding the one-child policy means that only children will have to bear the responsibility of supporting both of their parents and, sometimes, all four of their grandparents in their old age, as they cannot rely on siblings to help them care for their aging family. Not just in China, but worldwide, due to technological advancements and improved healthcare, people are living longer and therefore the size of the aging population is growing (Dvorsky). The size of China’s population aged sixty and above will grow by 100 million in just 15 years (Wang). This augmentation in the number of elderly people will lead to an “increasing demand for services and expenditures related to health care,” the costs of which will fall upon China’s only children (Wang). With one child providing for six other people in addition to him or her and their families, the financial burden will be demanding. The one-child policy has created a situation in China in which there are too few young people to support a growing, aging population. Another problem created by the policy is that if an only child dies before his or her parents and grandparents, there will be no one to support them in their old age. The chance that an eighty year old Chinese man will outlive his 55-year-old son is 6%, and the likelihood an eighty year old woman will outlive her 55-year-old son is 17%, as women live longer (Wang). Without a child to support them in their old age, parents and grandparents will have fewer resources to pay for expenditures like health care. Many people feel that the one-child policy is challenged in principle and in practice for violating a human right to determine the size of one’s own family. According to a 1968 proclamation of the International Conference on Human Rights, “Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and the spacing of their children.” In 2002, China outlawed the use of physical force to make a woman submit to an abortion or sterilization, but it is not entirely enforced. In the execution of the policy, many local governments still demand abortions if the pregnancy violates local regulations, or even force abortions on women violating the policy. Another problem with this policy is that
Since the policy has first been implemented, China has decided to ease the policy, making several reforms. China announced the relaxation of the one-child policy in November of last year: if at least one of two parents is a single child, the couple may have two children. Provinces began implementing the new rule only in January this year (Chai). About 270,000 couples applied for permission to have second children by the end of May, and 240,000 received it, according to the national family-planning commission. Since the Chinese government was fearful of a baby boom that would overwhelm hospitals and, eventually, schools, they have made the application process difficult. In the eastern city of Jinan, for instance, would-be parents must provide seven different documents, including statements from employers certifying their marital status. With 11 million couples suddenly eligible to have second children, some caution over easing policy may be understandable. As the process is simplified, more parents will choose to go through it. Analysts expect additional new births to rise toward 1 million a year over the next decade or so (Goh). That is on top of today’s average of 16 million births a year (Goh). This change should help solve the problems faced now, such as the fertility crisis and the 4-2-1 problem. The one-child policy has ultimately been successful. It was necessary due to the fact that China’s population was so rapidly growing and that the resources were being used up so quickly. The policy has helped slow the population growth rate, eradicate poverty in rural towns, given men and women alike increased benefits in health care, and helped to accelerate modernization by increasing women’s literacy and introducing new job opportunities. Some may say that this policy is detrimental and that it has only hurt China by adding a demographic and sex imbalance of more males than females, introducing a decreased fertility rate, creating increased female infanticide, and also introducing the 4-2-1 problem. Since the Chinese aren’t very big on religion, they have no religious conflict over the policy. Many families in China have expressed the notion that even though they are only technically allowed to have one child, they wouldn’t want another one because of the responsibilities and debt that come with a second child. Children use up a lot of time and resources; the Chinese feel less burdened by having only one child take up their attention. In a CNN article two women speak about the abortions the family planning policy implements, “It’s a rather common occurrence, [like eating] an ordinary kind of food. There’s nothing worth talking about” and “It’s a very natural thing, like eating and drinking. It’s not against the law. And it’s quite safe to have [an abortion."]. Like these women, many other women feel that family planning is just another law, and not a big deal. So why make it one? If these women are happy and don’t feel like their rights are being infringed upon, who are we to tell them how to behave and feel?