Population policies in Asia – Damie Ing Jia Ying

One child policy in China

In 1979, the One Child Rule was introduced in China. It is an anti-natal policy. It was brought in because of concerns about the size of China’s population. In the 1960s the fertility rate was as high as 5.7 and the country could not support this rate of population growth. The new policy meant that any couple having a second child would get a heavy fine, around £3,000, which only the very affluent could afford. There were financial incentives to follow the policy.

A 90 per cent majority of China’s population were affected by this policy. The remaining 10 per cent were exempt as they were not from the ethnic Han majority.

In time, the policy has been adapted. Two babies were permitted if:

  • The people lived in the rural areas
  • Both parents were a one-child household themselves
  • The first child was a female
  • The first child had a disability
  • The first child died in the Sichuan earthquake in 2008
  • There was a multiple birth, the mother was allowed to keep all the children

The impact of the policy:

  • The fertility rate has dropped from 5.7 in 1960 to 1.5 in 2011.
  • About 400 million births may have been prevented.
  • In urban areas the policy was very effective.
  • It has led to an ageing population with a high dependency ratio. The ageing population is also increasing because of the improvements in living standards and life expectancy in the country.
  • The cultural preference for boys has meant that there seems to be a gender imbalance in China. There have been reports of female infanticide, especially when the policy was first introduced.
  • This gender imbalance is now narrowing as China seems to be valuing girls more. For example, girls are now encouraged to travel to the factories to work and bring home pay. Being a one-child policy girl also meant extra university points in one province.

China Population 2011

Singapore: changes in a population policy

Like China, Singapore had a high birth rate and fertility rate.

The government introduced an anti-natal policy to try to reduce this. It did this by:

  • Making contraceptives available at a low cost.
  • Creating family planning clinics to help make advice more available.
  • Publicising through the media the advantages of having a smaller family.
  • Introducing financial incentives for smaller families (such as free education and health care benefits). The financial support stopped with larger families.

The impact of the policy:

  • The fertility rate has dropped to 1.2 in 2011.
  • There were insufficient workers to fill job vacancies because of the decrease in the birth rate.
  • Singapore has an ageing population.
  • The change in the birth rate was more dramatic because it was also caused by the increasing development of Singapore, meaning that more women followed careers rather than starting a family. This meant the birth rate fell because of factors not directly because of the policy.

Singapore Population 2011

A pro-natalist policy

As a result of the decline in the birth rate, in 1984 the Singapore government started to reverse the anti-natalist policy. In 1987 some pro-natalist policies were introduced.

  • The phrase “have three or more children if you can afford it” was promoted by the government.
  • Financial benefits were given to encourage female graduates to have more than three children.
  • A baby bonus scheme was introduced which gave cash to new mothers.
  • Singapore has also recently introduced carers’ leave for fathers.
  • Other attempts to increase the birth rate have been to send out Valentine cards encouraging people to “make love, not money”. They also arrange weekend cruises to help match-make potential couples. These schemes have yet to be proved successful.
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