Babies and Growth: Why Less Could Mean More

Chinese Children Running
Jane Golley
East Asia Forum Quarterly (EAFQ), ANU ePress
Publication type: 
Journal Article
Publication year: 
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
One-Child Policy; Two-Child Policy; China; Ageing Population; Fertility Rate
On 1 January 2016 the Chinese government formally abolished the one-child policy, replacing it with a two-child policy. The dominant reason for this change, as stressed in Chinese media reports at the time, was that relaxing family planning policy would provide part of the solution to China’s ageing problem. Higher fertility is expected to produce more than 30 million additional people in the labour force by 2050. The National Health and Family Planning Commission reported that a two-child policy could increase the rate of GDP growth by 0.5 percentage points through its impact on aged dependency—the ratio of people over 65 to those of ‘working age’, usually defined as between 15 and 64. These calculations hinge on the assumption that a significant number of the fertile population will respond by actually having a second child—an assumption that is highly uncertain according to a string of demographic research on the topic. This research suggests an alternative future in which China falls into a ‘low-fertility trap’, consistent with other countries in the region, including Japan and South Korea. The question is: would such a trap really be a bad thing?

Photo Credit: ​Fernando Mafra

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