Why Chinese don’t want more children
March 10th, 2014
10:45 AM ET

Why Chinese don’t want more children

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By Global Public Square staff

Much has been made of how China recently eased restrictions on having children. Under the old rules, if a couple wanted to have a second child, both husband and wife needed to be the only offspring of their parents.

Under the new rules, a second child could be allowed if just one of its potential parents was an only-child. The change impacts about 20 million Chinese. You'd imagine after decades of restrictions, many of them would jump at the chance to have a second child, right?

Wrong.

An article in The New York Times recently reports that as many as half of the families impacted by the new rules are balking at the idea of a second child. Parents quoted in the article say that children simply cost too much.

Why is this attitude surprising? And what went wrong?

It's simple: China is getting richer…and its women are getting more educated. According to the CIA, the five countries with the highest birth rates in the world include the likes of Niger, Mali, and Uganda. There's a clear correlation here: these countries have some of the lowest per capita incomes in the world – the average income in Niger is just $800 a year.

Now let's flip the numbers. The five countries with the lowest birth rates in the world include Monaco, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan. Now look at the average incomes. Monaco? $70,700! Singapore? $61,400. China clearly aspires to be in Monaco and Singapore's company…not Niger and Mali.

In addition to the wealth effect, studies show that the more educated women become, the less likely they are to have more children. This has happened across the world, in Europe and even in traditional Asian societies like South Korea.

China is the great historic anomaly. China's citizens have gotten as old as Europeans, well before they've reached European levels of wealth or education. And while China is not as rich as South Korea or Singapore, it has high and ever-increasing female literacy – the rate is now nearly 93 percent. So getting them to have more kids now might not be that easy.

Why is China an anomaly? Well, it's the only country that could pull off a central edict like the one-child policy. It was an unprecedented experiment in population control. The problem is that now China really needs young people – by 2050, about a third of Chinese will be over the age of 60.

What can Beijing do? Well, it is probably looking at experiments in the Western world.

Consider France, which in the 1990s realized it needed to boost fertility rates. The central government put in place a program of incentives including tax breaks for parents, subsidized housing, and access to child care. According to the Wall Street Journal, France spends 4 percent of its GDP on these programs – about twice as much as other rich countries.

What happened? France's fertility rate over the last 20 years rose considerably, from an average of 1.65 children per woman in 1994, to two children per woman last year. That's a 20 percent jump.

If China wants its people to have more children, it may have to do a lot more than minor relaxations of the one-child policy. It might have to go in for a French solution.

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Topics: China • What in the World?

soundoff (120 Responses)
  1. NoAd

    China is headed for a societal-structure demographic disaster. Think about it: given China's family structure and millennially entrenched expectations of children taking care of parents/grandparents, each of these one-child families will have responsibilities for up to six seniors (or twelve, if they marry) - not including managing all of their expectations for the success of that single child or couple. The system is simply not sustainable, with the cliff to be reached in about 20 years.

    March 10, 2014 at 11:06 am | Reply
    • gb333

      Not all Chinese will need to nor want to be taken care of by their children. Many will have pensions and something similar to SS. They tend to be very healthy even at an older age because their diets keep them thin an slender.

      The other thing is, unlike in America, the extended family is celebrated. Its okay to have the children, the young adults, their parents and their parents' parents in the same home. They eat together and play together so much in fact that envy the family that I had the chance to spend time with. It was great. Every day was feast. Every weekend a holiday. By living together they also share experiences and work loads(like preparing dinner). As my kids get older, I wish we could have something similar, though I know it to be unlikely and probably thought of as weird.

      March 10, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  2. Not enough fresh air

    With the out-of-control pollution in China, who'd want to have more children? As a result of that pollution, my guess is that in 20 years China will have a health care crisis of dynamic proportions that will make America's obesity problem look like the common cold.

    March 10, 2014 at 11:21 am | Reply
  3. Not enough fresh air

    Also, maybe those tiger mothers are just too exhausted to continue their tyrant parenting. Not until the culture realizes it's useless, they are taking themselves out of the procreating game with this parenting model.
    Hint: relax and enjoy your children, enjoy life, smile a little...it's not all about money!!!

    March 10, 2014 at 11:28 am | Reply
    • nhguy

      I'd much rather have a tiger mother than a welfare mother....

      March 10, 2014 at 11:52 am | Reply
    • Cheng

      Not enough fresh air, I don't think you're taking into consideration the cultural elements of living in China. Historically, Chinese people view raising children as the responsibility of the parent; if the child does something good it is because their parents raised them well, if the child does something bad it's because the parents failed at parenting. This sense of responsibility is why Chinese parents don't want to have more kids unless they know they can provide for them. Also, it's not all about money but in a country as overpopulated as China, if you don't have enough money, life will be very difficult for you so most Chinese parents encourage their kids to make more money as a way to survive: http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/07/25/hongkong.coffin.homes/

      March 10, 2014 at 12:04 pm | Reply
    • Warhammer

      Not all about money? Is that so? I'd like to see you raise your child, or any child without money. My teenage daughter started saying all you need is love to live. When she had a kid out of wedlock, she found out the hard way that love alone doesn't put food in a kids mouth, pay the rent, keep on the lights, provide hot water, etc.

      March 10, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Reply
  4. soulcatcher

    Well, China could start importing health care workers to learn Chineese(language/culture) to take care of their elderly. Hint: about the same time America's Baby Boomers will be gone. Or maybe pollution will solve their elderly problem.

    (Just trying to be pragmatic here not trolling)

    March 10, 2014 at 11:39 am | Reply
    • Eric

      You are a piece of shjt, dont you think yourself this way?

      March 10, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  5. KawiMan

    The Hispanic culture needs to adopt this conservative birth rate approach. They will just keep breeding unchecked like rats until our entire globe will be saturated with them.

    This is the single biggest problem humanity faces – Overpopulation!

    March 10, 2014 at 11:45 am | Reply
    • Really???

      Last I ckecked there were about a billion more Chinese than Hispanics on the planet...dont worry about that...it will take thousands of years before the world is out numbered by Hispanics or any other race.

      March 10, 2014 at 12:16 pm | Reply
    • Randy

      I sincerely doubt it. And while you're ranting about the Latinos you may keep in mind they have among the strongest work ethics of any group of people. You dont find many Latinos who sit home watching soap operas. Most of them work jobs we wouldnt consider doing for wages we wouldnt accept. They are anything but lazy and we have groups here that shall remain nameless (because no need to name) that could learn lots of lessons on getting and keeping employment from Latinos.

      March 10, 2014 at 1:55 pm | Reply
  6. Stalinman

    The White culture needs to adopt this conservative birth rate approach. They will just keep breeding unchecked like rats until our entire globe will be saturated with them.

    This is the single biggest problem humanity faces – Overpopulation!

    March 10, 2014 at 11:59 am | Reply
    • CosmicC

      Where's the "like" button?

      March 10, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Reply
  7. Jeff

    I think the author, and all four commentators so far, have the completely wrong idea of what China is doing, or in fact, what China is all about.

    Let me preface the following with this: China is famous for think 20, 50 years ahead. They do not make popular decisions at any given time for its populace, but do what is best for China. Two immediate well known examples that come to mind was the massacre of all their drug users in 1940-1950 and the one quoted here: the one child per household. The end result of these programs was exactly what China wanted. In these examples, record low usage of drugs and a population that will not careen out of control.

    Ok, China does NOT care about it's unproductive population to the extent you guys seem to think. They only see value to the state. If they do not need a huge 'young' population, they won't have one. They aren't going to increase young population for the sole purpose of caring for the older. Even the eldest of them know this. They would find it distasteful and even unpatriotic for them to depend on social welfare. If the older populations standard of living drops, oh well. China is saying they don't NEED a huge labor population for their needs and in the face of industrialized labor, they are right. America with its 'artificial' jobs and unsustainable social security is the exact opposite of what they aspire to. We Americans make the mistake of thinking that they are copying us as opposed to the thought that they have their own ideals.

    They might be wrong on he humanistic scale, but its no secret that they are the worlds next superpower in the near future.

    March 10, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Reply
    • Really???

      Hey Jeff: they obviously didn't see the pollution problem coming and didnt do anything to prevent it. They don't care to make the world a wasteland (starting in their own back yard!) all they care about is making a bunch of trinkets the world surely does NOT need...yeah, great planning!

      March 10, 2014 at 2:03 pm | Reply
      • bob smith

        Apparently you need a history lesson.

        Chinese Cities Today look like American cities of the 70's and 80's. It was only the EPA forcing companies to clean up their act did things improve.

        March 10, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
  8. abundantlife

    Overpopulation is overused and incorrect. The fact is that the global elite have brainwashed the masses because they want their New World Order. They seek to depopulate the earth through restrictions on child bearing, abortion, breaking down the traditional family, feminism, environmentalism, Agenda 21, diseases, HAARP, and other measures.

    http://abundantlifeliving.wordpress.com/?s=abortion+matrix&submit=Search

    March 10, 2014 at 12:11 pm | Reply
    • Serious Truth

      You must live in a cave if you think our current population growth can continue. But my guess is that you are a bible-thumper and logic would be wasted on you.

      March 10, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Reply
      • abundantlife

        No cave – reality, friend. I've traveled and researched much and know for certain great portions of this small world are uninhabited. Take a look at the money trail of the depopulation agenda. You've been brainwashed. Once you see this, it makes learning all the more intriguing as you deprogram yourself.

        And, on another point you made: Yes, I love Jesus Christ of Nazareth – He is my LORD and Savior.

        “For God so loved the world, that He gave His [a]only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

        March 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
      • jared k

        Based on the references to HAARP and Agenda 21, I'm thinking that 'abundantlife' is unlikely to call a cave home. I'd guess asylum living is more his/her style.

        While I abhor massive inequality in resource and opportunity distribution, the idea that humans haven't already identified virtually all of the richest terrain on earth and proceeded to bleed it to death is ridiculous. The unpopulated areas of the earth are that way for good reasons.

        March 10, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
      • Randy

        Several countries in Europe (Denmark, Sweden, France) have rapidly aging populations and as a result began loosening immigration from the middle east which has resulted in many cultural clashes – muslims vs europeans. You may remember Denmark got into a lot of trouble publishing a cartoon making fun of Mohammad or Muslims several years ago and a war nearly resulted. The countries are aging because their young people are not reproducing enough to care for the older population as they continue aging. Most demographics experts began predicting a decline in overall population growth in this century and thus you dont hear nearly as much alarm about it as you heard in the 60's and 70's.

        March 10, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
    • CosmicC

      Where's your tinfoil hat? Overpopulation is a real problem. We are not alone on this planet and, whether you like the natural world or not, we depend upon it. Furthermore, we are already stretching the limits of critical resources, primarily fresh water. East Africa is already facing water shortages because of global warming (insufficient alpine snow pack to provide water for the dry season) and India could follow.

      March 10, 2014 at 3:21 pm | Reply
      • abundantlife

        Here are some quotes from the global elite worth noting:

        Planned Parenthood Founder Margaret Sanger: “The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”

        YES. Margaret Sanger was evil.

        Jacques Costeau: “In order to stabilize world population, we must eliminate 350,000 people per day. It is a horrible thing to say, but it is just as bad not to say it.”

        Prince Phillip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II and co-founder of the World Wildlife Fund: “In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, in order to contribute something to solve overpopulation.”

        Do your research, friend, about the global elite and Agenda 21 and then we can have an intelligent discussion.

        Agenda 21: http://www.endagenda21.com/

        March 10, 2014 at 3:39 pm |
  9. palintwit

    Contrary to popular belief, tea party patriots do not get an erection when viewing photos of Sarah Palin. Rather, they flap their size 34 clown shoes with such speed that they actually become airborne. Physicists have dubbed this phenomenon the "Palin Principal".

    March 10, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Reply
    • Randy

      Would they know what to do with the erection if they got it?

      March 10, 2014 at 2:43 pm | Reply
      • palintwit

        Tea party patriots have been known to boink their cousins after church on Sunday before nascar comes on.

        March 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
  10. Rex the dogg

    "many of them would jump at the chance to have a second child, right?

    Wrong."

    It should of said "Wong".

    March 10, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Reply
  11. Jeremy Kreiser

    I can't believe the view of this article. The thought that any country in this world needs to increase its population is irresponsible to the well being of this planet. 1900 the world population was around a billion. Do the math. Resources are not endless!! Population control will happen in our life time as countries fight over these resources. The future won't be pretty unless something happens now.
    Why doesn't your article talk about that maybe the Chinese see the over crowding and all the pollution caused by it?? The smog? The dirty rivers? Maybe they see a country of over a 1.4 billion people is too much,

    March 10, 2014 at 12:41 pm | Reply
  12. Tony

    The entire world population could fit in the state of Texas and it would only have the population density of New York City.

    March 10, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Reply
    • Paul H

      The population problem is not about how much space, but about how much food, water, and other natural resources are required to sustain a desired lifestyle. So the fact that the world's population might fit in Texas doesn't suggest anything about Earth's capacity for its population.

      March 10, 2014 at 1:13 pm | Reply
      • Squeezebox

        I think the key to the Texas hi-rise problem would be to synthesize H2O and to have terrace gardens on each floor of the towers. You would use grow lights on the lower floors because all the terraces would block the sun. We would also have to genetically engineer our grains so that they wouldn't have to grow so tall.

        March 10, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
    • KHS

      Just imagine a Texas with the population density of New York City! To live there would be absolute hell. Do you want the whole human population to live under such conditions?

      March 10, 2014 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  13. Serious Truth

    The only hope for the future of the world is to stop population growth. People talk about a "sustainable" supply but how can anything be sustainable if demand continues to rise by simple population growth? The sad part is that people talk about saving the planet for the children when having children is what is killing the planet. Maybe someday organized religions will look beyond their own need for more followers and put the needs of the planet first, but I doubt it. They seem to think God wants us all to live in huge high-rise apartments eating algae as long as we go to the right church.

    March 10, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Reply
    • ckg

      Good post! This planet is slowly dying but people just keep on having kids. Global warming....our economy....too many people on this planet. Everyone needs to stop procreating for about 5 years. Quit whining about having kids and go adopt one.

      March 10, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Reply
      • Randy

        In countries where women are highly educated they have much lower birth rates. Its demonstrated once women have access to good paying jobs and education they no longer want to focus on staying home and reproducing. Most women in the US who are well educated and have good jobs do not have more than 2 children tops which is the replacement number to take the place of their parents when they die. The answer to more over-population is educating young female children on the facts of life and giving them free (and I DO mean FREE) access to birth control and even abortion when it is needed.

        March 10, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
    • jared k

      Totally agree.

      March 10, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Reply
  14. jonusb

    It seems as if they're talking about two sides of the spectrum. Of course those African countries where polygamous marriages are not uncommon you'll have high birth rates. I think the Chinese women are reading into these things too deep. What's the harm in having TWO CHILDREN instead of one? We're not talking about 10 children here.

    March 10, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Reply
  15. fawwaz

    You all wrapped up in this none sense talk, if there is justice and fairness in this world none of this would be a talking point, overpopulation is not a cause for concern it is the skew distribution of wealth and earth resources theft and self-serving is the cause for people’s suffering, the ungodly life that is causing this and not a math number as an overpopulation, the corrupt / elites actually started thinking and acting as they are actual owner of this earth and they are leasing it to the masses at a very high exploitation rate. 90% of earth wealth is controlled by 10% of population wonder what is the ramification of this for humanity we see it first hand, poverty, hunger, disease and death

    March 10, 2014 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  16. Mark K

    Jeremy Kreiser, I agree population of the world is increasing tremonddously...guess that is why NASA are exploring new planets like Mars...there was an an article few months ago (that some folks are thinking of relocating to Mars..http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/10/tech/innovation/mars-one-plan/

    March 10, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Reply
  17. trevor bryant of flagstaff az

    I could care less about africa, however, their population will double in the next 50 years to 2 billion people and continue climbing. This is a continent filled with useless black people, who can't build a road, much less a society to save themselves. They have no sense of culture, law and order, right and wrong. They are becoming overwhelmingly muslim, which is the other group of concern, as muslims are also incapable of compatibility with civilization. This is not racism or bigotry, these are facts. The only populations that are projected to grow, are those two groups, and wouldn't you know it, they are the least civilized ones. Keep africans in africa, keep muslims in muslim countries. do not let them spread. They will keep themselves poor and ill one another if you let them alone by themselves. Don't let them into your country, and if they are there, kick them out now, while you still can. They cannot live by human laws of civility, progress, and order. They will draw you back to the 19th century if you let them stay.

    March 10, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Reply
    • Regis

      keep trying to tell yourself you are not a racist or bigot ... hope that works out for you .

      March 10, 2014 at 1:41 pm | Reply
      • Randy

        While the remarks are no doubt racists much of his factual argument is sound. Africa is the most corrupt, mismanaged continent and group of countries on the planet – regardless of which race you're talking about. And muslims are quickly gaining a lasting and deserved reputation for lack of control and open warfare and embitterment towards all other groups of people. Without a sharp decline in the numbers of muslim attacks and shootings they will become social pariahs and no one will allow them into their country.

        March 10, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
    • Okey

      But one of them is currently your president. Many of them are leading experts in many field of science. I advise you spend your energy thinking out solutions to world problems rather than living in hate and racism. PIG!!!!!!

      March 10, 2014 at 6:02 pm | Reply
  18. ckg

    this practice of having only one child is something the US should seriously look at. Too many people on welfare and the world is WAY overpopulated.

    March 10, 2014 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  19. scoutmom

    The issue isn't mass overpopulation across the globe. It's that there are more babies being born into uneducated, welfare dependent homes. Educated, high earning, driven people have fewer children. That means fewer children being self sufficiently provided for, and taught how to become functioning members of society.

    Sooner or later, the poor will breed out the rich simply by the law of numbers and growth. This is why the gap between the classes is widening.

    So, if there is population control enforced within my lifetime, (which I don't believe will happen) I certainly hope they take into account IQ and GPA scores. Wshould breed and support the smart ones.

    March 10, 2014 at 2:04 pm | Reply
    • CosmicC

      Yup. Let's go back to eugenics 'cus that worked out so well with the Nazis.

      March 10, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Reply
  20. bob smith

    Of course china wants it's population to be 1/3 over the age of 60 by 2050. China is trying to kill off it's population to bring it down to sustainable numbers. China currently has 1/4 of the worlds poopulation. Instead of using bullets they are using laws. Kill off half the population and spread the wealth out. China is also dangerously male.(65-35 if memory serves). this will also help keep the population in check.

    Though the very concept of 300 million chinese guys with money and without wives should scare you more than anything.

    March 10, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Reply
  21. jared k

    We need fewer of EVERY nationality. No country should be trying to artificially increase its population. The sooner this happens, this world will finally start moving towardssustainability

    March 10, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Reply
  22. John fry

    Its really because women are embarrassed about continually producing chinese men with small penises .

    March 10, 2014 at 2:25 pm | Reply
  23. SaySome

    The number is telling us something. The new policy only affect 20 million people, considering China's population is 1.3 billion.
    The fact is that in more than 40 years of the ONE CHILD population control policy, only small portion of population (mainly people live in big cities) have been restricted by the policy. People who live in countrysides, which have been majority of the population, have had how many children they had wanted, usually more than 2.

    March 10, 2014 at 2:27 pm | Reply
  24. brad

    The world is better off with less children.

    March 10, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Reply
  25. Doug Roberson

    Apparently it's more important to pay less per capita for the elderly than it is to save us all from extinction via over-population.

    March 10, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  26. Fr33th1nk3r

    More children in China?
    Despite how much the Chinese economy HAS grown, and WILL grow, the population there is still growing at an exponentially faster rate and spells disaster and famines on a Biblical scale when it happens.
    Unfortunately, since the world economy is all connected, we will all be going down when this one hits.

    March 10, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Reply
  27. No need to grow Chinese polulation

    They are 1.2 billion, we are 300 million. Hyundai has ca. 2500 dealerships in USA, 1500 in EU and 5000 in Asia – USA has 'zero' – 0. The Asians are 100times bigger than USA. Stop supporting them.

    March 10, 2014 at 3:13 pm | Reply
  28. Sid

    This article completely misses the point. Its premise is that, as a result of the one child policy, people have actually been having just one child. Not true. In China, second and third babies are born to families every day. Hundreds of thousands of these children, millions over the years, mostly girls, are abandoned to orphanages. Others just vanish. Irresponsible journalism. Criminally stupid article.

    March 10, 2014 at 3:38 pm | Reply
  29. Coffee

    I'm sure China's government doesn't promote the baby daddy problem cutting fatter checks to those castor oil preemie's with ADD and herniated umbilicals....all which get the non working moms more money here in America.

    March 10, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Reply
    • giggity

      well said. Thank you

      March 10, 2014 at 5:08 pm | Reply
  30. giggity

    because china is not a wellfare nation.

    March 10, 2014 at 4:35 pm | Reply
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