Shanghai Pushes "Two Child" Population Policy

Posted by: Frederik Balfour on July 24, 2009

Here’s a twist on baby boomers: China’s longstanding “One Child” population control policy is being relaxed by the city of Shanghai in a bid to boost a higher birth rate to support the city’s aging population. The Shanghai Daily reported on July 24 the government is encouraging a baby boom through a public awareness campaign urging couples to consider having a second child. Unlike Singapore, another demographically challenged city, Shanghai has not yet announced any financial incentives to encourage procreation, however.

The paper says about 22% of the population is 60 or older, and decades of a state-directed one child policy means that a bulge in the graying population is developing. Shanghai has an official population of about 15 million although the city has between three and five million of floating population, migrant workers who do not enjoy the full benefits of registered Shanghai residents.

Nearly 97% of the city’s population has only one child, however my guess is this reflects the fact that both spouses work. Just last night I got more anecdotal evidence of this. A woman I’ve known for several years working in the JW Marriott hotel in Shanghai told me last night she and her husband would never contemplate having a second child. Their son, who is about 18 months old, lives full time with her parents so she and her husband can both hold down jobs.

For more insights, please see the story on how Japanese companies are dealing with dwindling birth rates by my colleague Hiroko Tashiro.

Reader Comments

Squeezebox

July 24, 2009 9:58 AM

China's gonna have to cope with the graying population the best that they can. They knew thirty years ago what one child per couple would do and they chose to do it anyway. For the first time in their history the majority of Chineese people can afford to have meat at least once per day. That wouldn't have been possible with the old population growth rate. Once their population drops to 50% of it's peak, then they should reconsider, not before.

Dan

July 24, 2009 11:57 AM

Strikes me as a good example of what happens when "the masses" are viewed as a herd to be controlled. At times people need to be terminated, at times they need to be manufactured for the public good.

Not sure about the implication that 97% have only 1 child because parents work. I've known many a working couple that still procreate even when daycare is a problem.

Tom

July 24, 2009 2:39 PM

I've yet to see an article that pointed out that the two-child policy for dual one-child parents is not a new one -- has been around for decades. It's just that very few people knew about it because we've only recently reached the first generation that's become eligible for two children.

Recall also that enforcement of the one-child policy was spotty until well into the 1980s. The fines were token amounts and progressively stepped up with each birth, so it was quite common to see 4- and 5-child families in rural areas. (Read Peter Hessler's book River Town for an anecdote.) These days, fines are much more draconian -- even the second birth carries a steep fine.

Squeezebox (July 24, 2009 09:58 AM), the stated goal at the time of the one-child policy was to someday reach a population of 1 billion. That may have been feasible then, when the government could simply support old people in their retirement, but the elimination of the iron rice bowl has destroyed the viability of that scheme. Population decrease is probably not a good goal for China. Reaching a stable population would be more reasonable.

Dan, sneer all you want, but perhaps you'd like to be born in India, as one of ten children in a Dalit family. For all the problems caused by the one-child policy, it's a heck of a lot easier to feed 1.35 billion Chinese mouths than 2 billion. Better to face the problems of an aging population than the problems of not enough food. The lesser of two evils.

Friend of China

July 24, 2009 8:24 PM

The two comments so far seem to be a perfect illustration of American attitudes towards China. That is: The Chinese are stupid and absolutely need instructions from Americans to manage their own affairs. NEWSFLASH: China is doing much, much better than America is at present. They seem perfectly able to make the right decisions to get ahead and keep their country growing. If anybody was stupid, it was the Bush administration. Let us hope Obama turns out to be much smarter.

BW

July 24, 2009 10:30 PM

Two children policy will be adopted soon in all parts of China, this is goooood.

MCC

July 24, 2009 10:47 PM

China is a collective society, so that kind of mechanism would work. It's not like the government is forcing people to have babies.

Ellena

July 25, 2009 10:00 AM

As far as i know, a lot of Chinese couples would prefer to have a 2nd child if they can financially afford it.

Rick

July 26, 2009 8:25 AM

The only way we can achieve the common good is with an expansion of government power. We must.:

1. Make all private schools illegal. The government, and only the government, should dictate where children go to school and what they learn. At a very very early age children shall be instructed by a teacher who is an employee of the government.
2. Create government run day care. The children will not relinquish their individuality to the collective unless we start early.
3. Ban guns. Only the government shall have guns, not individual citizens.
4. Raise taxes. More economic activity shall be tied to governmental spending decisions, not individual spending decisions.
5. Make all private interactions and/or exchanges that are associated with personal healthcare illegal. The government, and only the government, shall provide healthcare.
6. Control how many children a woman may have. The government, and only the government, should control population.

Love, Peace, Respect

Saul

July 26, 2009 11:30 PM

As Shanghai becomes more and more developed, it is following the footsteps of Hong Kong and Japan, the two places in the world with the lowest birth rates. To different extent, it happens around the world - whether it is East Asia, Europe or the US as per capita income increases. The change in life-style and family values makes having kids a less and less important priority. It may not cause too much problem for Shanghai or Hong Kong as these places are open to immigration and people from lower income places continue to go there for work and opportunities. However, it is a problem for Japan which has an insular xenophobic society not willing to take in new-comers.

The science of population

July 27, 2009 1:34 AM

This shows it is better to have birth control sooner than later, had China started one child policy when its population was 600m, then it would have peaked at 900m 40 yrs later. But it started such policy at 900m, the peak will be 1.5b (2040), and it will take forever to get back to 600m (year 2080) -- 600m is probably the optimal population for China. It will have to face the consequence of shrinking population, but better face it sooner than later, if the resource is not unlimited, you have to let the population decrease one way or another. The way India population goes today, it will face a much tougher situation very soon - something nobody can fix.

@The science of population

July 27, 2009 2:11 AM

When Indian population reaches 2-3 billion by the end of this century, they will just invade neighboring countries for land and resources or flood into the US and Europe en-masse and continue to multiply. Either way, Indians will dominate the world. India will be a superpower by then. Remember, the 21st century will be the Indian Century.

The_Observer

July 27, 2009 10:35 AM

Talk is cheap.
To @The science of population. India dominating the world is easier said than done. India has the same problems that China has with a large population, unequal sex ratios and limited resources except that China started modernizing earlier when imported resources were cheaper. Part of China's modernizing was population control. India is predicted to have a larger population than China by mid-century. India at the moment can only afford to educate a small percentage of their population. India like the USA at the moment places more emphasis on weapons purchases than on the education budget. The Hindu elites also don't think large parts of the population, such as Dalits or Muslims, should be too educated. Also, how do the Indians expect to educate a growing population without taking resources away from other parts of the economy? No the only thing that India will have plenty of going forward is the night-soil that they leave all over the place.

happindia

July 27, 2009 11:31 AM

supapowa india! soon india population will overtake china and becomes the world largest country per population! and will conquer america with its ppl! 60% american politics dominates by indian. indian is the richest and highest educated grp in america. bollywood has captured every american heart and soul. indian are buying every big american companies. 50% american IT jobs is done by indian! soon the white man will have to marry indian to produce aryan supreme human! long live aryanism! long live slumdogs! indian is white, indian is aryan!

C. H. Ng

July 29, 2009 4:10 AM

Yeah...India can overtake China as the world's most populated nation. And yeah...she will be another superpower by the turn of a next century. But may I ask "so what"??

What's the point of achieving these targets if the country still can't feed her millions of poor people living in the slums? Or be able to educate her people to eradicate her still outdated caste system? Why spend billions on military hardwares to become the next superpower while she is powerless to improve or upgrade the lives of her own citizens? (NB: These go to other would-be aspiring nations beside India as well).

So to all those Indian supremists, kindly stop bragging here in this blog. Your tall tales are not only getting stale but also leave a bad taste for us readers. You can start talking once your country has reached that stage / level. Until then, please be more modest about it.

Bowomack

July 30, 2009 5:34 PM

@ Happy India - what are you smoking ?

The relatively small Jewish population in the U.S. has more collective power & money than all of the 1.2 billion Indians combined. India, along with every other English speaking country is the United States Bitch.

America say's jump, they all say
"Sir! yes sir! how high?!"

If it wasn't for U.S. & U.K. foreign aid India would spiral out of control back to 3rd world country status, along with many other country's if the foreign aid-money-spicet was suddenly & completely shut off.

MK

October 14, 2009 8:10 AM

India and China (but China reaching the apex first) will be both be a major power. See, the superpower vocab will just disappear, big deal. China and India are never hostile to each other (maybe some border disputes but that's it) other than vying for bragging rights. The only problem is this. For China can "finance" their space program, can India do that too without further impoverishing their population?

You know the Chinese have a saying that means "only wear hats that fits." If there is a budget deficit in India, it should have due to spending to earth infrastructure before space infrastructure because it is the earth infrastructure that will make India rich and it beats bragging hands down.

China / USA

November 9, 2009 12:05 AM

I am guess the Indian ppl will just have to wait until then, then still are weak and powerless. My word is, the only way for india to become the next world superpower is to product more babies. WOW, it seems so easy! U dont even need to go to school to do that. Just have sex 10 times a day! NOthing to be bragging about u indian PPL!

sachin casmiro pinto

December 4, 2009 3:39 PM

when i will marry i will give birth to four babies in india that means four childern in india i am proud to be an indian

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