This picture taken on September 13, 2012 shows a family riding an electric-tricycle along a street in Tianjin. China's elderly face increasing uncertainty three decades since the one-child policy took hold, with no real social safety net, the law has left four grandparents and two parents with one caretaker for old age -- and bereaved families with none.
For over thirty years, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has enforced a controversial family planning policy also known as the one-child policy. But that rule may soon be changed to a two-child policy as a result of a new report from a PRC-affiliated research group.
The China Development Research Foundation has recommended that the policy should be amended to allow two children per family by 2015 and that all birth limits should be dropped by 2020. The think tank points to China’s plunging birth rate and multitude of demographic imbalances as a sign that the one-child policy has outlived its usefulness.
In recent years, China has eased restrictions on the unpopular policy, allowing for two children in rural areas and among minority populations. But such alleviations may not be enough to avoid dangerously low fertility rates.
Chinese family planning authorities credit the one-child policy with preventing around 400 million births, but is China better off as a result? Why should China consider eliminating birth limits?
Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Chancellor's Professor of History and Chair of the History Department at UC Irvine. He is the author of four books, including China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2010) and the editor or co-editor of several others, including Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land (University of California Press, 2012).
Robert Walker, president, The Population Institute, where he directs the organization's advocacy and public education activities, including its work on issues related to health, economic development, sustainability and the environment.