China's controversial one-child policy has just changed, slightly. Officials announced Friday that married couples in which the wife or husband has no siblings, can have a second child. That means that approximately 15 to 20 million married couples are now allowed to have that second child without serious consequences. China realized its strict policy had had some seriously adverse effects on the gender balance of the population, which led to this change.
The one-child policy is the population control policy of the People's Republic of China and was created and applied in 1997. This was China's effort to control the population boom, as well as social, economic, and environmental problems this country faced. Although it caused quite an outcry, the biggest percentage of the Chinese population agreed, after all, the policy prevented up to 250 million more people between 1980 and 2000 and 400 million from about 1979 to 2011. Who could argue with that in an already extremely overpopulated nation.
With the new change in the one-child policy though, expert Wang Feng, professor of sociology at the University of California Irvine stated, "A baby boom can be safely ruled out." The restrictions put in place could increase population, but not by enough to create a huge increase. China is by far the most highly populated nation in the world, coming in at 1,361,110,000 people in 2013.
The policy was put in place due to the extreme overpopulation China faced, but sadly, extreme measures were sought for those who disobeyed the law. Fines, forced abortion and sometimes worse, i.e, some parents in other parts of China have accused local family planning officials of abducting babies who are considered “extra” children in a household and selling them to orphanages, sometimes for $3,000 per baby.
Added to that horror, the fines alone in nineteen province-level governments placed on couples who had that second child, brought in approximately $2.7 billion dollars to those governments.
Adding to the theory of a no baby-boom result, young couples have become accustomed to the one-child law and have given up on the thought of a second child entirely. A big percentage of China's population, such as Xia Gaolong and his wife, who are among those that will be allowed to have a second child as a result of the new policy, said he has no intention of giving his 10-year-old son a sibling.
"No way will I have another child," said Xia, who is in his late 30s. "There are so many pressures in life in today's society, and our children will face only more pressures."
Experts see this change as a meaningful step toward in reversing the strict family planning and returning reproductive rights to parents, which is being considered.
"China is testing the water now," Wang Feng said. "When they don't see a baby boom, there will be more confidence to let the policy go altogether."