Socio-Economic Consequences of China’s ‘One-child per Couple’ Population Policy

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Background History
China’s population growth began to increase during the Ming Dynasty, and increased dramatically throughout Qing. The population grew around 65million in the late 14th century to more than 400 million in 1949 (Spengler 1962: 112). Since the People Republic of China was founded, Mao had seen the population growth as favorable to industrialization, and he believed that population growth empowered the country (Potts 2006). In the 1950s, the government began to realize that the food supply would soon become insufficient for the rapidly growing population, and stopped encouraging people to have more children through propaganda posters. In the beginning of the 1970s, the government launched the “Later, Longer, Fewer” campaign.
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Citizens with farmer registration also faced harsh consequences, for example confiscation of private pieces of land, or exclusion from job opportunities in town enterprises (Li 1995: 565).
There were exemptions for certain groups of people, for instance ethnic minorities (Cao 2009: 97), Hong Kong and Macau, and foreign people in China are exempted from the policy. The ethnic minorities accounted for around 8% of China’s population, which was approximately 105 million people. In rural areas, couples were allowed to have a second child if the first child was a girl or disabled, but the second birth had to be spaced by 5 years from the first birth (Gu 2007: 130; Greenhalgh 1986: 495-498). The policy was not applied evenly throughout the country, and it varied considerably in different areas (Short 1998: 373).

The Primary Effect of One-Child Policy- Decline of Fertility Rate
The ultimate goal of the one-child policy was to reduce the fertility rate in order to improve the living standards of the people. The average living standard was intended to increase by having less people to share the country’s resources, as well as diminish the negative consequences of overpopulation such as food shortage, unemployment, overwhelming of public services and lack of housing.
According to the United Nation’s data, the total fertility rate of China was 5.7 births per woman in 1969, and it declined to 2.8 births per women by 1979. This remarkable
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