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For over three decades, China has endorsed the one-child policy, officially known as the Family Planning Policy. The policy was enacted in 1979 as a form a population control deemed necessary to alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems in China. Interestingly, there are some exceptions to this policy: rural families can have a second child if the first child is a girl or disabled, families in which neither parent has siblings are also allowed a second child, and ethnic minorities are completely exempt.
This policy appears to be under reform as according to the Wall Street Journal on Saturday the Chinese legislature “formally eased two restrictive social policies of its authoritarian system, allowing some couples to have a second child and ending a form of extralegal detention.”
The reforms are evidence of the country’s broader efforts to reduce governmental control over the personal affairs of the country’s increasingly modern society, as well as practical factors that local experts say begged for adjustment. “Unpopular at home, the one-child policy and extralegal detention are also longtime lightning rods for criticism by foreign governments and human rights groups. The one-child policy change will have broader popular ramifications at home…”
Policy changes to the one-child policy follow demographers’ predictions that China will soon face labor shortages due to the declining birthrates.
Family planners say China’s one-child policy, adopted in 1980, has prevented 400 million births.
The new changes will allow partners where one spouse is an only child the ability to have a second child. Experts predict the change will result in one to two million new births annually in China nationwide.
While still restrictive on the number of births families can ultimately have, the policy changes do move the country one step closer to social freedom. Many negative consequences have arisen from the one-child policy such as an increase in forced abortions, female infanticide, and underreporting of female births. Amazingly, a 2008 survey undertaken by the Pew Research Center reported that 76% of the Chinese population supports the policy.