China’s one-child policy a ‘demographic disaster’

China’s one-child policy a ‘demographic disaster’, by Derek Parker.

The real problem was the interaction of the policy with the cultural preference for sons. Abortion was often used for sex selection and baby girls were abandoned or sometimes simply killed. Sons were seen as the means by which the parents would be supported in old age — necessary when the government pension system was rickety at best.

The outcome should have been obvious: as the one-child babies grew up, there would be a stark gender imbalance. Fong finds many sad men who will never have a partner.

But the imbalance has done little to improve the social position of women, especially outside the major cities. It is unusual for a wife to have any ownership of marital property and domestic violence is common. Fong asks one man what he seeks in a woman. His answer: “obedience”.

Little wonder that many rural towns are almost devoid of young women, who move to the cities looking for a better life.

There is another huge problem coming down the demographic road as the one-child parents begin to move into retirement. It means that each couple from the one-child generation will have to support four ageing parents as well as a child of their own. It is hard to see how the numbers can work.

As for the children of the one-child policy, Fong wades through survey data that finds them to be a rather unpleasant, unimaginative bunch, spoiled children growing up into self-centred adults. How this — plus a huge number of discontented men rolling around looking for something to do — will affect China as a geopolitical player is unknown, but it is unlikely to be good. …

The one-child policy eventually was lifted in 2015, allowing couples to have two children. But so far there appears to have been little impact on the birthrate. Many people see a second child as too expensive, given the skyrocketing prices of everything from houses to education.

hat-tip Stephen Neil