China’s Looming Demographic Crisis and Brief
History of the China Population Policy Reform Initiative
“China’s One Child Policy After Three Decades –
Time for a Change?”
Joan Kaufman, Sc.D
Lecturer in Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Distinguished Scientist, Heller School for Social Policy and Management,
Brandeis University
China’s Population



Over 1.35 billion (2005)
Annual increase of 12 million/year (down
from peak of 23 million/year in 1980s
Population will grow for another 15 -20
years, peak at about 1.4 billion, then start
to decline
Congruence of Two Booms
(Population Age Distribution, China) (Wang Feng, 2010)
30
Population (millions)
25
20
15
10
5
0
0 3 6 9 12 15 18 21 24 27 30 33 36 39 42 45 48 51 54 57 60 63 66 69 72 75 78 81 84 87 90
Age
1982
(Mason and Wang 2007)
2000
2050
Congruence of Two Booms
(Population Age Distribution, China) (Wang Feng 2010)
30
Population (millions)
25
20
15
10
5
0
0 3 6 9 12 15 18 21 24 27 30 33 36 39 42 45 48 51 54 57 60 63 66 69 72 75 78 81 84 87 90
Age
1982
(Mason and Wang 2007)
2000
2050
Chairman Mao
“It is a very good thing that
China has a big population.
Even if China’s population
multiplies many times, she
is fully capable of finding a
solution: the solution is production…revolution
plus production can solve the problem of feeding
the population”
(The Bankruptcy of the Idealist Conception of History, 1949)
Background to the “One Child Policy”



Zhou Enlai - Later, Longer, Fewer Policy in
1970’s (tightened – “one is not too few”, “two is
enough”, “three is too many”)
Deng Xiaoping’s “4 Modernizations” by 2000
included a goal that population must be
contained within 1.2 billion
One Child Policy introduced in 1980 to meet that
goal – Open Letter to CCP (9/80)
One Child Policy







Child bearing women targeted
Demographic targets down to local level
Government regulations and fines for unplanned
births
Parity driven: emphasis on long term methods
pressure to abort unplanned pregnancies
Highly organized service and propaganda
infrastructure
“One veto” system for evaluating officials
The One Child Policy after 30 Years
Key Questions?
 A temporary measure, so why has it been
so hard to change even despite mounting
evidence that it should?
 What arguments and strategy will
convince policy leaders to do so?
 How rational is the resistance to change
the policy amongst an otherwise
pragmatic leadership?
One Child Policy and China’s Fertility
Decline (Wang Feng, 2010)
Decline in Annual Births
(Wang Feng, 2010)
28.00
25.29
26.00
24.00
Births (million)
22.00
20.00
18.00
15.85
16.00
14.00
12.00
10.00
1980
1985
1990
1995
Year
Sources: National Bureau of Statistics, China
2000
2005
How Low is China’s Fertility?
(Wang Feng, 2010)
1.8
1.7
1.6
1.5
1.4
1.3
1.2
1.1
1.0
1995
1996
1997
2000 census
(Guo, 2009)
1998
1999
2000
2001 survey
2001
2002
2003
NBS data
2004
2005
2005 1% svy.
2006
What are the Impacts of this below
replacement fertility ?

Already well underway and will be hard to reverse

Key Impacts which will become more severe





Distorted Sex Ratio at Birth – less women
Skewed age ratio
Decline in labor force entrants
Aging population
High dependency ratio of aging to workers

“Demographic Dividend” at risk

The “One Child Policy” is irrelevant at this point
Onset of Negative Growth
(and population momentum) (Wang Feng 2010)
Projection Scenario
I
II
(TFR 1.47)
(TFR 1.6)
III
(TFR 1.8)
Population Growth Momentum
Growth to (year)
2023
2026
2030
Maximum Population Size
(Million)
1350
1382
1441
54
49
25
308
220
87
47.6/2047
45.6/2044
42.9/2041
Population Decline Momentum
Years of Decline after
Reaching Replacement
Level
Net Population Loss
(Millions)
Higest Median Age/Year
reached
(Wang, Guo, and Mao 2008)
China’s Demographic Cliff ?
(Wang, Guo, and Mao 2008)
(Wang Feng, 2010)
China’s total labor size will decline by
11% in the next 20 years (Wang Feng, 2010)
860.00
846.40
820.00
800.00
780.00
760.00
752.92
740.00
720.00
700.00
680.00
660.00
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
2021
2022
2023
2024
2025
2026
2027
2028
2029
2030
Population aged 20-60 (mllion)
840.00
Year
Its new entrants (20-24) will drop by
45% in the next 10 years
860.00
130.00
124.55
840.00
120.00
110.00
800.00
100.00
780.00
90.00
760.00
80.00
740.00
68.04
720.00
70.00
60.00
700.00
50.00
660.00
40.00
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
2021
2022
2023
2024
2025
2026
2027
2028
2029
2030
680.00
Year
Wang Feng, 2010
New Labor, 20-24 (mllion)
Population ged 20-60 (million)
820.00
Current Fertility Policy Still Requires the
Majority of Chinese to have only One
Child

National policy required number of
children per couple (policy fertility): 1.47
 One child:35.4%
 “One and a half ” policy:53.6%
 Two children:9.7%
 Three children:1.3%

63% of the couples could have only one
child under current policy

Exemptions of numerous categories
Unbearable Weight on Chinese Families
(140 million only children, a third of all Chinese
households) (Wang Feng, 2010)
% of elderly
women w/one
child, at age 60
Distorted Sex Ratio at Birth
1982 - 107.6
2005 - 120.5 (132.9 rural)
By birth order
first
1982
106.5
2005
108.4
second
109.4113.8
143.2156.4
Source: 1982: National Fertility Sample
2005: China Population Censuses and 1% Pop Survey Samples
Gender Impacts Driven by the One Child Policy



SRB distortion through sex selective abortion
Girl child abandonment: second and third parity
Higher child mortality rates among girls (21 per
1000 excess deaths)
Sex ratio at birth in China.
Urban and Rural 1982-2005 (from Siri Tellier, 2010)
126
Total
123
121.7
122.9
Urban area
120
120.5
Rural area
119.9
Sex ratio
117.8
117
116.8
114
113.6
111.8
111.3
111
108
113.1
112.1
107.7
107.6
117.1
116.4
113.0
109.9
Source: China Population Censuses and 1% Population Sample Surveys 5.
107.1
105
1982
1987
1990
1995
2000
2005
Year
Sex Ratio at Birth by Birth Order
1982-2005 (from Siri Tellier, 2010)
165
160
155
150
1982
1987
1990
2000
2005
160.3
151.9
156.4
145
148.8
143.2
140
Sex Ratio
161.4
141.8
135
132.2
130
125.0
125
127.1
120.1
117.3
115
105
129.1
121.4
120
110
132.8
129.4
107.1 108.4
107.7
105.4 106.5
113.8
110.3
109.4
105.0
100
1
2
3
Birth order
4
Source: For 1982: National Fertility Sample Survey6;
For 1987-2005: China Population Censuses and 1 % Population Sample Surveys 5.
5+
Impact

30 million wifeless men in 2020
(People’s Network, 2004-03-07)
Male surplus if SRB stays the same
2030 - 33.4
2040 - 39.1
2050 - 37.5

Source: C. Guilmoto, unpublished (from Siri Tellier, 2010)
My personal involvement in this story as
scholar, funder, and participant
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A book, A Billion and Counting, 1983 (begun in 1974)
UNFPA - China and PO1 (1980 – 1984) Training
Demographers and the 1982 Census
Doctoral research on the policy and program
implementation in rural China in 1987
Ford Foundation - China 1996-2001
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RH post ICPD
Support for SRB studies and “Care for Girls” efforts
Quality of care project – limited impact on Repro Rights
Initiation of the Population Policy Reform Initiative in 2000
The Population Policy Reform Initiative

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Mounting consensus on need for policy change
Core group of demographers from the Quality
Project (initially)
Recruited other influential demographers well
distributed at senior levels
Marshall the evidence on negative social and
economic impacts
Convince leadership to change the policy
Strategy
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No foreigners allowed
Assemble a distinguish team of researchers working
across disciplines and in positions of influence
Do good studies
Disseminate the results to policy makers
Work through economists and social policy thought
leaders
Move it into the public discourse – tag line “China’s
looming demographic crisis” – counter intuitive - below
replacement fertility and implications
Components of the initiative
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Study of national TFRs
Assemble other studies on impact – Sex
Ratio, Aging, Labor, Dependency ratio,
below replacement fertility, etc
Study of 2 child areas
Study of places where policy allowed 2
children in Jiangsu
Institutional study of NPFPC
Strategy and Approach

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Petitions to Leadership (2004,2008)
Conferences (2005, 2008)
Convince the economists
Messaging to the public - media blitz (Southern Weekend, March 2010 – front
page challenging the policy)
Today’s Presentations

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Gu Baochang – A detailed look at the 10 year
initiative (Gu as key driver of it)
Cai Yong - Answers a key question about where
part of the resistance lies to an obviously
needed policy change – the institutional
bureaucracy of the NPFPC
Zheng Zhenzhen – The Jiangsu Study - The “nail
in the coffin story” – only 4% of couples allowed
go on to have the second child (so far) – but
boy child is still an important reason. In other 2
child experiment areas, SRB is better
Larger Perspectives and Questions
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A “reflexive” belief among the leadership that population control
responsible for China’s economic boom and Deng was right
One Child Policy – old style campaign politics and artifact of
previous governance style
No women’s movement support
Rights argument has gone nowhere so economic argument must
lead
Popular opinion of growing middle class does matter to leadership
(media blitz)
Jiangsu rich – maybe not representative or poor rural China?
Rapid urbanization – end of hukou (HH registration) system around
the corner?
New rationales – the environment
China’s Looming Demographic
Crisis
Wang Feng 2010
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China`s One Child Policy after Three Decades