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‘Two-child policy’ to tackle aging population

By Wang Guangzhou | 2015-01-08 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Despite the loosened policy, high costs of raising a child in the city make most eligible couples unwilling to have a second child.


China has loosened its decades-old family planning policy, allowing couples to have two children if one spouse is an only child. Under the reform, the policy will be adjusted and improved step by step to promote “long-term balanced development of the population in China.” Relaxing the policy aims to keep China’s birth rate at a stable level to rein in its aging population.

China’s population problem has shifted from its sheer size to its structure. The current family planning policy has resulted in numerous problems, largely restricting social and economic sustainable development.

According to data from the 2010 census by the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the Chinese mainland’s population has increased to 1.339 billion. Nearly 222 million people are aged 14 or under, accounting for 16.6 percent of the total population; nearly 998 million people are aged 15 to 64, accounting for 74.53 percent of the total population; and 119 million people are aged 65 or over, accounting for 8.87 percent of the total population.

Based on current data and analysis, if China continues the “one-child policy” the total population will have zero or even negative growth over the next four decades.  The population aged 14 or under, which accounted for 16.6 percent of the total population in 2010, is forecast to decrease to 11.4 percent in 2050, and the population aged 15 to 64, which accounted for 74.53 percent of the population in 2010, is forecast to decrease to around 60 percent in 2050. Meanwhile, the country’s growing elderly population aged 65 or over, which accounted for 8.87 percent of the total population in 2010, is forecast to increase to nearly 28 percent in 2050.

All of these figures indicate China will face a worsening labor shortage and increased aged population in future decades if the national family planning policy isn’t adjusted.

The “two-child policy” will profoundly affect the total population. It will grow the population in the long term, not the short term. The number of one-child families will decrease, effectively reducing the number of families losing their only child.

However, China is trying to avoid the excessive growth or decline of its population. In the face of its structural transformation, adjusting the family planning policy looms as an effective method of population management.

It is well-known that the formation and adjustment of the family planning policy should conform to social and economic development, as well as couples’ willingness to have children.

Future development of the family planning policy should focus on its adjustment and improvement. A gradual approach to relaxing restrictions should be adopted. Avoiding unabated population growth requires implementing new policy reforms in phases. If the final result surpasses the estimated growth figures, the government should adjust the policy accordingly.


The author is a research fellow at the Institute of Population and Labor Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.