Why India and Pakistan can draw lessons from China’s two-child policy

Published: November 3, 2015
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If the new two-child policy qualifies around 90 million families, it would help raise the population to an estimated 1.45 billion by 2030. PHOTO: AFP

In 1979, when the Chinese government introduced the ‘one-child policy’, there was widespread criticism as it was felt that it was the biggest social engineering project ever introduced by China that infringed on the rights of women’s reproductive rights.

However, the government justified the one-child policy, as it was the only available option it had to control the ever growing population. The Chairman of the Communist Party, Deng Xiaoping justified the policy as it would ensure that,

 “The fruits of economic growth are not devoured by population growth.”

The National Health and Family Planning Commission have claimed that the one-child policy prevented the births of four hundred million people. It not only led to rapid economic development, but also improved the living standards of the people.

However, research shows that the fall in fertility to an extent could not be attributed to the one-child policy alone, as it was more on account of decisions of Chinese family to go for smaller families. From producing around six children in the late 60s, the average Chinese woman now bears around 1.5 offspring. If current trends continue, China’s population, now roughly 1.35 billion strong will begin to decline by 2030.

Two major factors in arresting the growth in population could be attributed to the rapid spread of education and creation of job opportunities for women. The Chinese women today feel more empowered due to the financial independence. It is for this reason they still continue to prefer small families. However, irrespective of many gains of the policy, there was one drawback to the one-child policy – it created a gender imbalance, as families preferred to have boys over girls. This led to the skewed growth of men over women. If this trend is not reversed, finding brides for men would pose a serious challenge.

In a welcome move, the government has recently announced a ‘two-child’ policy and the couples would no longer be bound by the one-child policy. One of the reasons for reversing the one-child policy is because China is faced with an ageing population. It is estimated that by 2050, one-quarter of China’s 1.4 billion populations will be over 65 years. This will not only create a tremendous shortage of the workforce, but there will be fewer young people to take care of the green population.

If the new two-child policy qualifies around 90 million families, it would help raise the population to an estimated 1.45 billion by 2030, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said in an online statement. China had 1.37 billion people at the end of last year. However, this policy may not have a big impact in urban areas, where couples would still prefer smaller families because of economic reasons. However, it will have a greater impact on rural families who still prefer in having larger families.

The question is whether the two-child policy will result in a change in demographic conditions in China, as more and more working women are increasingly preferring small families. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs by 2022, China is expected to cede the dubious distinction of being the world’s most populous nation to India. If the Indian government does not take steps in controlling the rising population, it will be a strain on the already depleted resources to feed additional mouths. Presently, nearly 40 per cent of India’s population is struggling to survive; a rise in population may lead to a scarcer food supply.

As far as Pakistan is concerned, the rate of population growth is more than double to India. It is here that India and Pakistan can draw lessons from the Chinese experience. The policy framers of both the countries should take immediate steps to arrest the trend in the growth in population, accelerate economic development for creating more job opportunities and also take steps to modernise agricultural methods. If immediate steps are not taken, there is a prospect of facing social upheaval, especially among the growing unemployed youth, and that needs to be avoided at all costs.

K S Venkatachalam

K S Venkatachalam

The author is an independent journalist and political commentator. He tweets as @Venkat48 (twitter.com/venkat48)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Alam

    As far as Pakistan is concerned, the rate of population growth is more than double to India. It is here that India and Pakistan can draw lessons from the Chinese experience.

    This is where the problem is sir.In India i have many friends who are muslims…I am yet to see a friend who has less than 4 brother/sister including himself…..In India they are called birth machines…no mechanism…Similarly Indian lower caste people and educated people almost same number as muslims that are living in village have on average 3-4 children..but as people get educated….they are restricting to 1-2 childrens…but this is not the case with countries like pakistan….I guess by 2100 pakistan and india will have almost same population if not near….Recommend

  • Bairooni Haath

    China is a tyrannical dictatorship which enforced the one child policy with forced sterilization, forced abortions, beatings and arrest of parents who wanted two children and sale of babies who were born without state approval. In doing all these, it has also set the foundation for the worlds biggest demographic disaster with a sex ratio so skewed that there are 40 million men known as bare branches who will never be able to marry or ever have a family. China is a poor third world country with a rapidly aging population where every child growing up will support 2 aging parents and 4 aged grandparents. A drop in fertility is a natural consequence of rising living standards and women entering the work force. Most of South and West India is already below replacement fertility level, North and East will shortly follow. As we saw repeatedly in Pakistan, a dictator can make things happen, but that is not the path to a sustainable future. India is doing well by concentrating on health, education and opportunity. Fertility is a byproduct of these basics.Recommend

  • Parvez

    In Pakistan no government could, let alone would, even dare to implement such policies……..no matter how sensible or logical it may be.Recommend

  • ajeet

    Muslims should stop the policy of having four wives and 40 children and then asking the government for aid in improving their economic situation.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Excellent reply. India is on the right path.
    Pakistan, on the other hand, is looking at a Demographic time bomb with rapidly rising population, plus low Economic growth and massive borrowing!
    Pakistan’s future is actually scary! I just hope they protect the nukes that they have and not let it fall into the hands of the Jihadis.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    The Politically Correct media cannot single out communities. I hardly know any Muslim family where they have les than 3 children.

    Most Muslims in India are poor and have more than 3 children, because their local mullah has told them Family Planning is haram. They send their children to madressahs as they can’t afford private education for all their children, which most Indians aspire for their kids. They are taught only Islam in these Madressahs and no Math and Science, very limited English. These kids in turn have no capability to get into India’s top universities because of this. Then, they are not qualified for jobs.

    Then, reports like Sachar committee reports will only concentrate on the last point – Muslims have low representation in jobs at the private and public sectors! The blame is then laid on Hindus, as if we are discriminating against Muslims.

    Of course! What did you expect if you had 2 or more kids!

    India need not learn anything from China on this particular issue. Our population will come down with growth(we are after all fastest growing major economy on Earth), it already has so much! India is on the right track. But, we need to tackle Muslim population growth. VHP and RSS are right on this issue. Muslims are holding back themselves and India with their actions.Recommend

  • Farhan

    India had forced (or coerced to be more precise) sterilizations too, once upon a time…

    “China is a poor third world country”
    As for this comment, well, if that’s your view of the largest economy of the world then I dread what India is with it’s high rate of public defecation, poverty, etc…Recommend

  • http://thoughtsandotherthing.blogspot.fr/2015/09/hyderabad-as-i-know-and-feel.html Supriya Arcot

    At least in India , having multiple children is becoming an issue only with the lower income group due to lack of knowledge / other factors . The upper class has always had 1-2 kids and now mid class ( irrespective of religion ) is also opting for 1 or zero babies due to the growing expense of bringing them up. I think the sol is , heedless of the num of spouses a man has , the num of his kids should be restricted to 2 or whatever..Recommend

  • Gemini

    I remember asking my driver to control his child’s birth because his salary was 15000 and he was already raising 3 kids. I asked him to use condom he replied “sir usse cancer hota hai”. Proper sex education and training is important.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    You are right about forced sterlization. But, it was during an emergency by the secular Congress, which was quickly stopped and routinely condemned.

    I guess you guys are so distracted by India’s problem you don’t even know that the same problems – poverty, sanitation, etc – are much bigger problems in Pakistan.

    WB says India’s poverty rate is lower than Pakistan’s.

    http://data.worldbank.org/country/india

    http://data.worldbank.org/country/pakistan

    Did you know less than half of Pakistan’s population doesn’t have proper sanitation facilities? Worse in South Asia!

    “Pakistan has the worst sanitary conditions in the South Asian
    region and its total economic impact amounts to a loss of Rs343.7
    billion, which is equivalent to around 3.9% of Pakistan’s gross domestic
    product (GDP)”

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/418812/lack-of-sanitation-costs-pakistan-3-9-of-gdp-report/

    Also, Pakistan has not convicted a single person for Rape in 5 years, thereby becoming the Rape Capital of the world.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/971799/the-much-needed-anti-rape-bills

    “According to other reports, in the last five years, the courts have not handed down a single conviction in rape cases.”
    Please update yourselves. Sorry for bursting your giant bubble. Let me tell me I had great fun doing it.Recommend

  • Saj

    Instead of tackling Muslim population growth (and thereby revealing your Islamophobia) why not advocate better standards in government schools, that will benefit all Indians of lower income by preparing their children for employment in an advancing economy while also bridging social gaps.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Pakistanis are in fact more Islamophobic than Indians. Your National Action Plan talks about monitoring Mosques, closing down Madressahs,etc. But, it doesn’t talk anything about any Temples or Churches or Gurudwaras. When NYPD started monitoring the Mosques in New York, you guys called it Islamophobia. I’m sure, you will agree this is Islamophobia as well.
    In such a case, its pretty ironic you guys accuse Indians of Islamophobia. You guys can do it, but not us, eh?
    Better standards of Govt schools is definitely the step in right direction, but in a country like India, it is very..very hard, nearly impossible, till it achieves a level of development which is not going to happen for a few more decades. An ordinary Indian is not waiting for Govt to provide free education, but is ensuring his/her kids get quality – Govt or Private.
    Stop playing victim and stop demanding free education, when poor Hindus are spending their entire life savings for private education for their one child. They can afford it because they are planning their families. They are doing the best under the circumstances.
    It is because of guys like you that Muslims are backward. Hindus have nothing to do with it.
    Besides Muslims in India have a better literacy rate than Muslims in Pakistan and Bangladesh. They have low representation because the poor education they have to receive due to their families not planning their offsprings.Recommend

  • Jayman

    India’s fertility rate is 2.4 vs Pakistan’s 3.8. India has learned plenty of lessons.Recommend