No tears for the enforcers
Nov 19th 2013, 13:58 by G.E. | BEIJING
WHEN China’s formidable one-child policybureaucracy—500,000 strong—was rolled into the Ministry of Health this year,some dared to dream that the end was nigh for the family-planning enforcers. Itis now clear no one need shed a tear for them. The “bad guys” of the one-childpolicy will still be around years from now, enforcing what will eventually be atwo-child policy.
But the bad guys may not be quite as bad.The loosening of the one-child policy announced on November 15th, allowingcouples to have a second child if either parent is an only child, is meant tosignal the beginning of a more family-friendly bureaucracy. The enforcers stillhave leverage, but in this respect central authorities are asking them torestrain their use of it. Provinces can set their own timetable forimplementing the reform, but they are being officially encouraged to do so asquickly as possible (some will undoubtedly proceed immediately; the fertilityrates in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are among the lowest in the world).Families will still have to apply for a permit to have a second child, butauthorities will be encouraged to approve them without a fuss. Officials expecta baby bump of 1m new births a year over the next several years, in addition to15m or 16m births now; some demographers predict more (and some businesses areexcited), but not a boom.
Some years in the future, the national policywill be two children per family, says Mao Qun’an, spokesman for the NationalHealth and Family Planning Commission (the newly named combined ministry). Thatwill further narrow the scope for ugly abuses. The forced abortions andsterilisations, illegal under the policy but still carried out from time totime, will become much more rare, for lack of law-breakers. The enforcers willhave far fewer opportunities to levy fines for violating the policy (or acceptbribes to ignore violations).
Will all that be enough to break theenforcers of years’ worth of habit-forming behaviour? Much will depend on howrigorously the Communist Party sets population-control targets, and how itgrades and rewards its officials for enforcing them.
Party conservatives still fear two thingsabout loosening population controls. The first is that without proper controlsthe population may grow beyond the country’s planned capacity to feed itself(1.5 billion people by the year 2033). The second is that loosening too quicklymay spur a baby boom that would strain public services. Both of these fears mayinform performance targets that the party sets for its officials, and which arecrucial to their career advancement. That means that if people in some areasare quicker to have second children than anticipated, abuses could ensue. Thereis also the matter that many enforcers have had little practice at the softerside of family planning, and may have difficulty adjusting; and that expectantmothers may have difficulty adjusting to them.
But there are reasons to be optimistic. Officialprojections of population growth have belatedly adjusted to the decliningfertility rate, now about 1.5 births per women, easing food-security fears(previous projections were based on a fertility rate of 1.8 births per woman).Authorities have begun to accept (much too late) the demographic downsides ofmaintaining a one-child quota: among them a shrinking labour force and anageing population that will put a strain on a smaller generation of childrenand taxpayers. Mr Mao of the health commission is confident that as thepressure of population control is reduced, “officials will focus more onproviding services” to mothers and families.
Still, even in an optimistic scenario,China’s massive architecture of social control will remain in place. Mr Maosays a day will come when China ends the practice of dictating how manychildren families can have, whether one or two, and of fining and punishingtransgressors. But it won’t be anytime soon. “We don't deny there is a conflictbetween the country's family-planning policy and the reproductive intentions offamilies and individuals,” he said at a briefing held today for a small groupof foreign journalists. “We are making an adjustment today and will definitelymake more adjustments in the future.”
For those who are interested.
China Demographics Profile 2013
Home > Factbook > Countries >China
Population 1,343,239,923 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure 0-14 years: 17.4% (male125,528,983/female 107,668,285)
15-24 years: 16.1% (male 113,504,233/female102,285,206)
25-54 years: 46.5% (male 319,710,444/female305,378,723)
55-64 years: 10.9% (male 74,447,204/female72,451,831)
65 years and over: 9.1% (male58,677,903/female 63,587,111) (2012 est.)
The 15 to 54 age group ratio is 1.056 mento 1 woman or 1056 men to 1000 women.
The 55 and above age group is about 1 to 1.
25-54 岁: 46.5% (男性 319,710,444/女性 305,378,723)
65 岁以上: 9.1% (男性58,677,903/女性 63,587,111)
I just hope this takes a little off theemphasis on having boys. The current oversupply of young men could easilybecome a problem for others as well as themselves.
MagicMoneyFrogin reply toAYouthInTheWilderness
China has always had an oversupply of men.China was polygynous up until the 1950's. The fact that China's elite alwayshad multiple wives always meant that there weren't enough women to go aroundfor all of the men so there was always an underclass of single men. It didn'tseem to cause much problems in the past.
AYouthInTheWildernessin reply toMagicMoneyFrog
Well ok but it that really on the samescale? My understanding is that this is a cumulative imbalance in the tens ofmillions.
Does no one anywhere in the media notwonder if maybe our population based pyramid scheme could be problematic in thenot too distant future?
Yes there wouldn't be enough people tosupport people on retirement benefits. But clearly at some point the system hasto break down since retirement benefits can't work with even a stablepopulation.
I have never once seen the media addressthis question. Everyone apparently assumes we can just grow the populationexponentially forever with no problems. How about all the benefits of a lowerpopulation? More community, more land, more opportunities for each person,cheaper food, cheaper scarce resources (for you hippies less co2).
It's a major blind spot and baffling.
AYouthInTheWildernessin reply toNaveedXVO
Indeed it does seem like a relatively largeblindspot, although I'd make the distinction that our *current* model ofretirement can't work indefinitely. Of course to change the model, we will needhealth care and culture that helps and encourages people to be able to do morethan just limp through their final decades.
On the other hand we may finally bereaching the level of automated output in the developed world that can supporta minimal living for everyone, assuming(!) it does not all continue to flow tothose that already have more than enough.
lewontinsfallacyin reply to NaveedXVO
You are absolutely right. In fact it is aponzi scheme, a giant one! And as you say: nobody talks about that. But whatwill we the consequences? In 2100 subsaharaafrika will have at leat 4 billionpeople. Then 20 billion in 2200. but ine day it will have to stop, and whatthen? The you someday have 20 billion old people in subsaharaafrica and noteniugh young peope to support them
Fat chance the Communists will ever trulygive up power, even in this one limited case. Even if they allow people to haveas many children as they want they'll still demand a license or some other suchkowtow...
Pity the young Chinese male. Even if hedoes manage to find a bride, he will need to support not only her, but herparents along with his own parents. Better start saving now!
I hope China understands that the choice ofhaving children ultimately falls on to Women and the more educated a Woman is,the more likely she is to not have children. Russia and Germany have tried andfailed with these "pro-children" programs.
MagicMoneyFrog in reply to IsRamic
"the choice of having childrenultimately falls on to Women"
That's feminist garbage. In a healthyculture, that choice is made- at the very least- jointly by the man and thewoman. In China, their parents are also in on the choice. Something thatcommentators on China often forget is that even though a married couple inChina might only want one child (and don't care if it is a boy or a girl), theyreceive immense pressure from their parents to have multiple children andprovide them with grandsons. So the demand for children within a family inChina is quite high (even if it is not overly high among the parentsthemselves), so if the one-child policy is weakened the Chinese parents willrespond to their parents demand for a greater number of grandchildren.
The situation in Russia and Germany iscompletely different.
IsRamicin reply to MagicMoneyFrog
Is the situation really that different? Allthree countries are either developed or developing, a woman has a largeopportunity in both nations to be well-educated and employed, Women who areable to obtain an education and have employment opportunities do not want asmany children as women without, it a sociological fact that has been proven inevery society regardless of race, culture or religion.
Even if the Husband, Grandparents andeveryone else wants children, if the Woman doesn't want children in aheterosexual marriage then there will be no children. Culture may influence butit cannot force. China's population decline will be from the same source asevery Western nation, modernization, the richer and more advanced your societyis, the less children it will produce.
TL;DR China's situation is similar toRussia and Germany. It's not "Feminist Garbage" it's sociology.
With China having more boys than girls andwith the addition of the one child policy, I really wonder what in the worldthe Chinese government is thinking. Even if the one/two child policy wasaborted this moment the fertility levels would with high probability be verylow now and in the future. China has become more modern, so one can't expect ahigher fertility rate than ca 1.8 when there is little social security and moreneed for young people to study and so on.
Even with the most insane growth China willstill drown in its old people before it gets rich enough to manage to care forthem.
With the fact that statisticallydictatorships is really useless at industries that need creativity and highknowledge, It is really is hard to understand how the Chinese government thinkit will get tax money from its old people when the only work then can do(thinking work, not physical work) will be hard to do in China due to itspolitical system and its cultural ways.
Its really a shame the Chinese was sosuccessful in making its current young generation think democracy is bad,because it will take two or more generations to change that mindset, and thatis so long that the wave of old people will hit before the needed changes hashappened.
The Chinese government seems to think itwill succeed in making China a knowledge based economy without fast democraticreform, even when there is not a single case of this being done with adictatorship in human history.
As an outsider it is like watch a slowmoving train crash where all the passengers spend all their time convincingeach other that all is fine. We will see if it is fine in 30 years time I guess.