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China Relaxes Two Child Policy: Lessons for India

  • 03 Jun 2021
  • 7 min read

Why in News

Recently, China relaxed its two child policy and announced it will now allow three children per married couple.

  • It also announced that it would increase the retirement age by a few months every year. For the past four decades, the retirement age in China has been 60 for men and 55 for women.

Key Points

  • China’s Population Policies:
    • One Child Policy:
      • China embarked upon its one-child policy in 1980, when its government was concerned that the country’s growing population, which at the time was approaching one billion, would impede economic progress.
        • Chinese authorities have long hailed the policy as a success, claiming that it helped the country avert severe food and water shortages by preventing up to 40 crore people from being born.
      • It was a source of discontent, as the state used brutal tactics such as forced abortions and sterilisations.
      • It also met criticism and remained controversial for violating human rights, and for being unfair to the poor.
    • Two Child Policy:
      • From 2016, the Chinese government finally allowed two children per couple– a policy change that did little to arrest the rapid fall in population growth.
    • Three Child Policy:
      • It was announced after China’s 2020 census data showed that the country’s rate of population growth is falling rapidly despite the 2016 relaxation.
      • The country’s fertility rate has dropped to 1.3, far below the replacement level of 2.1 required for a generation to have enough children to replace it.
        • The United Nations expects China’s population to begin declining after 2030, but some experts say this could happen as early as in the next one or two years.
  • Concerns of Falling Population:
    • Decreased Labour:
      • When the young population in a country declines, it creates labour shortages, which have a major detrimental impact on the economy.
    • Increased Social Spending:
      • More older people also means that demands for healthcare and pensions can soar, burdening the country’s social spending system further when fewer people are working and contributing to it.
    • Critical for Developing Nations:
      • A problem unique to China, though, is that unlike the other developed countries part of this trend, it is still a middle-income society, despite being the world’s second-largest economy.
      • Prosperous countries like Japan and Germany, which face similar demographic challenges, can depend on investments in factories, technology and foreign assets.
      • China, however, still depends on labour-intensive manufacturing and farming.
      • A drop in demographic dividend could thus hurt China and other developing nations like India more than those in the rich world.
  • Lessons For India:
    • Avoid Stringent Measures:
      • Stringent population control measures have landed China in a human crisis that was inevitable. If coercive measures like a two-child limit are enforced, India’s situation could be worse.
    • Women Empowerment:
      • The proven ways to lower the fertility rate are to give women the control over their fertility and ensure their greater empowerment through increased access to education, economic opportunities and healthcare.
        • As a matter of fact, China’s fertility reduction is only partly attributable to coercive policies, and is largely because of the sustained investments the country had made in education, health and job opportunities for women.
    • Need to Stabilize Population:
      • India has done very well with its family planning measures and now it is at replacement level fertility of 2.1, which is desirable.
      • It needs to sustain population stabilisation because in some States like Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Kerala and Karnataka, the total fertility rate is way below replacement level, which means it can experience in 30-40 years what China is experiencing now.

India’s Case

  • India’s Population Growth:
    • India’s population is estimated to be over 1.36 billion as of March 2021, indicating an estimated 12.4% growth over the last decade.
      • That is lower than the 17.7% between 2001 and 2011.
    • However, a 2019 United Nations report had projected India to overtake China as the most populous country by 2027.
      • India is expected to add nearly 273 million people between 2019 and 2050.
  • Indian Measures for Population Control:
    • Prime Minister’s Appeal: During his Independence Day Speech in 2019, the Prime Minister appealed to the country that population control was a form of patriotism.
    • Mission Parivar Vikas: The Government launched Mission Parivar Vikas in 2017 for substantially increasing access to contraceptives and family planning services in 146 high fertility districts.
    • Compensation Scheme for Sterilization Acceptors: Under the scheme, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare provides compensation for loss of wages to the beneficiary and also to the service provider (& team) for conducting sterilizations from the year 2014.
    • National Family Planning Indemnity Scheme (NFPIS) : This scheme was launched in the year 2005. Under this scheme, clients are insured in the eventualities of death, complication and failure following sterilization.


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