One-child policy

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(Redirected from One child policy)

The one-child policy is the current birth control policy of the People's Republic of China. It applies primarily to the dominant Han ethnic group which makes up about 92% of the population.



The policy's name is based on a popular misconception that Chinese birth control required all Chinese couples to have no more than one child. Although "one child" was promoted as an ideal, and the limit was strongly enforced in urban areas, the actual implementation varied from location to location. In most rural areas, families were allowed to have two children, if the first child was female. Additional children would result in fines, or more frequently the families would be required to pay fees for public services such as education for the children that otherwise would be free.

Moreover in accordance with China's affirmative action policies towards ethnic minorities, all non-Han ethnic groups are completely exempted from child birth constraints, including financial penalties. Thus the overall fertility rate of China is, in fact, closer to two children per family than to one child per family. Furthermore, the steepest drop in fertility occurred in the 1970s before one child per family began to be encouraged in 1979.


The immediate cause of the birth control policy was the demographic bump of people born in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1949, the population of the PRC was about 600 million. In 1970, the population was 870 million. Although the PRC had suffered through several famines and economic disruptions in the interim, its population had continued to demonstrate incredible net growth for several reasons:

  • Infant mortality fell dramatically as Western medical knowledge spread from the coastal cities into the vast interior (for example, the fundamental realization that both mother and infant are extremely sensitive to infection during and after childbirth, so everything in contact with both must be perfectly sterile)
  • Chinese couples have always attempted to bear many children in the hope that several will be males who will survive to adulthood, carry on the clan name, and care for their aging parents (and continued to bear many children even as infant mortality rates fell)
  • The PRC government formerly had a policy under which it encouraged couples to procreate

In the late 1970s, the Chinese leadership was alarmed by the fact that the "demographic bump" would soon begin entering childbearing years; the obvious danger was that if China's population exceeded its carrying capacity, then the nation might become unlivable and the Party would fall from power. Thus, it was decided to encourage family planning for this generation.

Also, when a Chinese woman has twins, it's usually fine, so many Chinese couples try to use conceptive drugs to do this.

Since the mid-1990s there has been considerable relaxation in family planning policies in the People's Republic of China, largely because the "demographic bump" of people born in the 1960s is now moving out of fertility age.

The implementation of the policy is generally left to local officials, which has led to wildly varying practices from location to location, as well as within a location over time. The policy has been enforced at times through the use of involuntary sterilizations and abortions.


The one-child policy has been cited as one of the major causes of female infanticide in China (see sex-selective infanticide). However, few demographers believe that there is widespread infanticide in China.

There is a preponderance of reported male births in some areas of China (as high as 12 males to every 10 females). But it is believed that this is the result of widespread underreporting of female births, in addition to the illegal practice of sex-selective abortions which is possible due to the widespread availability of ultrasound.

It should be noted that while the reported ratio between male and female births in Mainland China does differ substantially from the natural baseline, it is comparable to the ratios in the Republic of China (Taiwan), South Korea, and India, which do not have a strict family planning policy.

See also

he:הגבלת ילודה בסין ja:一人っ子政策 fi:Yhden lapsen politiikka


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