Today, keeping control of the population is a huge issue that is on all of the world leader’s minds. The amount of people you have in your country is hugely important to whether you have enough resources, jobs, food, education, health services etc. It is mandatory that governments keep a track of the population and keep a lid on it if necessary. Many countries have implemented schemes, laws and policies that have tried to change the population demographic for the better of the country. I am going to discuss whether these policies have been effective in their job in controlling population, or not.
In China 1979, a famous policy was instigated by Deng Xiaoping that limited married couples to have only one child. It was the ‘One-Child Policy’. The reasons for its introduction were that previous to Deng, Mao Zedong had encouraged large families to increase productivity. The birth rate in 1970 was 33.43, so Deng knew something had to be done otherwise they would be seeing mass starvation for everyone by the end of the 20th century if the birth rate continued to rise. They introduced many incentives to give people more of a motivation to have fewer children: •5-10% salary bonus for limiting to one child
•Priority in housing, education and health care for ‘only’ children
•Higher pensions on retirement for limiting to one child
Many sanctions were also introduced if the policy was not stuck to:
•10% salary reduction for having two children
•No extra space allocation for having two children
•Couples have to apply for the right to have children
The One-Child Policy seemed originally like a hopefully effective plan, but there were many fundamental flaws that the Chinese government did not think through. For example it plays unfair against the different classes. They did not take into account that rural families need more farm hands and they usually have more children because of this. They paid fines for having more children, which were paid to the rich urban couples who, due to their busy lives, stopped reproducing at the one-child limit anyway. Also, boys were invaluable to rural families as they were strong and would eventually provide for their elderly parents when they grew up. Girls on the other hand were unwanted as they were less strong and would provide for their husband’s family; not her own elderly parents. This caused a huge gender imbalance because sexism against girls began and many young couples purposefully starved or killed their baby girls to have another ‘chance’ for a boy.
This means that now there is an unbalanced ratio of boys to girls; 12: 10. This makes it hard for men to find partners and there are many incidents of forced marriages, prostitution and kidnapping as women have become a commodity. There were many procedures done alongside the One-Child Policy to help decrease the fertility rate. They were effective but extremely brutal and inhumane; forced abortions were carried out on a massive scale. Unwilling women were thrown in cells and tortured until they admitted to having an abortion. In 1983 alone 16 million abortions were conducted- that is 44000 abortions a day. Additionally, many couples were sterilised which denied them of their reproductive rights. There were high numbers of infanticide; many children (mainly girls) were abandoned by their parents and were taken into orphanages. Yet these orphanages were seriously undermanned because of the fail to see the increase in abandoned children.
The children often suffered tragically as the carers had little knowledge of childcare- 9 out of every 10 children died within one year of being admitted. Furthermore, skulls of infants were being crushed or injected with lethal medicine to place a cap on population growth. Doctors faced demotions, salary cuts or dismissal if they did not comply. These procedures were one of the worst human rights violations that happened related to the policy. The policy did bring success however, as it prevented 400 million additional births which would have placed a monumental burden on the population and government. The lower population has been beneficial to the environment and there are more resources to go around. Children in urban areas have received much better education and more attention and there will therefore be many talented intellectuals emerging from the population in twenty years.
It has changed a country with high birth rates, low death rates and high natural increase to a country with low birth rates, low death rates and low natural increase. It has therefore continued through the stages of the Demographic Transition Model and is now almost at stage 4 of the model. Maternal and infant mortality rates have reduced and the average life expectancy has increased. Should the policy be continued, China’s population will eventually peak at around 1.5 billion in around 2050, there will be more food and resources to go around, and literary rates will be at ‘Western’ standards. Also the falling growth rate is estimated to level out and stable as a gentle, manageable natural increase. Nevertheless, today the unforeseen social problems of the poorly planned policy are revealing themselves to the world.
There was a tragic disregard for human rights and life during the time when the policy was at its strictest. The worry now is for the future working generations because between 1949 and 1988 China’s population almost doubled and these people are now of child-bearing age and by the 2030s will start to enter the over 60s category. There will be an ageing demographic. This will create a very high dependency ratio and put strain on the working people. The future economic consequences are uncertain due to the rapid rate of growth of China’s economy.
This case study should have showed how there are positives and negatives to a national population policy that is implemented suddenly into a country. To answer the question succinctly, no, government policies are not ineffective because they work at reducing birth rate, decreasing fertility and controlling the inhabitants of the country, but it’s the social and ethical impacts and consequences that need evaluating.
I personally think that it worked in reducing population growth but the human cost may have far succeeded the supposed benefit due to the large loss of life that should not have been lost and the denial of many basic human rights. Also you may have to take into account that this policy was forced upon the Chinese people by their own government and it was their own leaders that allowed all the monstrosities like abortion and infanticide to take place. Therefore to put concisely, methods of the government to control the population are effective for their simple use but in my view I think that they need to be planned expertly and seriously thought through otherwise a huge unwanted loss of life can occur.