After 35 years, China’s one-child policy has come to an end. China is ready for change, but the Chinese are not.
“I can’t even afford to raise one child. I’m not going to have a second child just because they finally change the law, ” said Guodong Zhang. Zhang comes from a middle-class family. His son, an only child, just had his second birthday.
There are millions of cases like Zhang and his family whose desire to have another child has been dampened by the reality of their financial situation. Parents in China are now, after more than 30 years, allowed to have a second child. The Chinese government approved the two-child policy last October, but it may be too late to change the custom that has already been shaped over decades.
According to China Parenting’s official website, it costs approximately half a million yuan ($100,000 Cdn.) to raise a child from birth to 18 years of age in China (this include basic life expenses, education, health care costs, etc.), and that is only an average cost. Statistics China shows the average salary in China for 2015 was 45,000 yuan ($9,000 Cdn.) per year,; which means it will take over 11 years of savings (with no spending on basic necessities) to earn enough money to raise a child.
This financial imbalance is the main reason why young adults, even after they form their own families, are still reliant on their parent’s money to survive. And this issue, characteristic of Chinese society, has already become an obstinate malady that threatens to drag down China’s economy.
On the other end of the spectrum is providing for elders in the family. Almost all young adults who are working their way up in society now were born under the one-child policy, and this puts them in a difficult position.
Without siblings, the responsibility of taking care of both parents and grandparents falls on their shoulders alone.
The dilemma is that these young adults need financial support from their parents and even grandparents. And at the same time, elders need time and care from their kids, which doesn’t allow the younger generation to explore the world and leave their family behind. On top of this, there’s nothing in the way of support coming from the government.
The end of the one-child policy is assured, because some serious consequences are already starting to appear. There are problems arising with gender imbalance (over 37,000,000 male more than female), unstable family income (if a family loses the only child, this family becomes a poor household), and a high savings rate (due to the high cost of living) which is contributing to the Chinese economy’s recent sluggish growth, and therefore the world economy’s stagnation.
You can say the Two-Child Policy is a good thing for China, but just like the nature of life, it takes time to see it grow. The impacts of this policy would not be seen for at least ten years.
China is trying to reboot the economy by taking a radical new step, but if everything else stays the same, then it is not a real change.