A major policy shift . . .
On Monday, China announced that married couples will be allowed to have up to three children. This is a significant policy shift for the government, which kept its one-child policy in place for 35 years, only to be replaced by a two-child policy in 2015. This latest policy change, state-run news agency Xinhua reports, will help “improve China’s population structure, [and] actively respond to the aging population.” The policy shift is likely fuelled by last month’s release of China’s once-a-decade census, which showed that in 2020, the Chinese population had the lowest increase in growth since the country began collecting census data.
Skepticism over whether the policy will enact change . . .
Observers have questioned whether this policy will create any real change, as it does not address the social and economic factors behind China’s decreasing birth rate. Some say that it was never the two-child policy (or even the one-child policy) that held them back from having more children, but rather the impossibly high costs of raising children in China, including education, housing, and childcare. Others say there need to be further policy changes for it to work, such as increased maternity leave and addressing the imbalance in household duties between men and women. Still others point to the fact that this policy does nothing to address the lack of protections for single mothers.
Policy critiqued as 'too little, too late' . . .
Perhaps the most salient critique is why the three-child policy would work when the two-child policy did not. Critics point out that with China’s aging population, there are simply fewer women of child-bearing age. For example, Rudong County (in Jiangsu Province) was one of the first to implement the one-child policy almost 40 years ago, and now 40 per cent of its population is over 60 years old. After the three-child policy was announced on Monday, a poll on Xinhua’s Weibo account asked whether people were ready for the three-child policy. Out of 22,000 respondents, 20,000 stated, “I won’t consider [having a third child] at all.” The poll was quickly removed.