Opinion: China’s one-child policy led to abortion and abandonment

Anna Lo, MLA
Anna Lo, MLA

The Chinese government has announced its decision to end its draconian one-child policy.

Although reproductive restrictions are set to remain in place, with couples now limited to having just two children from now on.

The one-child policy – a birth control strategy from 1979 to curb population growth – has had unintended consequences economically for the nation as a whole and socially for families, as the policy decreed that couples in China could have only one child, or in the countryside two if the first child was a girl.

Although the one-child policy was partially relaxed in late 2013 to allow couples a second child if either parent was an only child, it apparently has not had much effect.

Socially, from being a nation of large families with a preference for boys, the one-child policy is at odds with Chinese culture and is believed to have resulted in not only couples stopping trying for more children after the first child, but also parents seeking abortion, abandoning or even, in extreme cases, killing their first-born female baby in order to have another chance for a son, traditionally deemed as the heir bearing the family name.

It must be heart-breaking for any parent to be forced by societal pressure to give up their baby daughter, with orphanages set up in China for baby girls deemed unwanted – many of whom were subsequently adopted by childless families overseas.

Three decades since the introduction of the one-child policy, the imbalance in gender in China has meant that millions of young men are unable to find a wife, the ratio is estimated to be one female to 10 males.

Perhaps the table has turned – with young women the rarity, well sought after by their opposite sex.

For many years economists have warned that the policy would not only create a demographic deficit but an economic problem as well. The low birth rates, an ageing population needing health care and pension, as well as a diminishing labour force could be counter-productive for economic growth.

The Chinese government has at last realised the unintended consequences of the controversial policy.

Anna Lo is Alliance MLA for South Belfast, originally from Hong Kong