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The Big Picture – China ends one child policy: Time to dump Malthusian theory?

The Big Picture – China ends one child policy: Time to dump Malthusian theory?



China recently ended its one child policy. Now, couples in China can have two children. One child policy was adopted by China in 1979 out of the Malthusian fears that unchecked population growth would lead to economic and environmental catastrophe. It is also being said that it was due to one child policy that China is on the verge of crisis today.

  1. Is the Malthusian theory of population still valid today?
  2. Can China turnaround its demographic crunch?

About Malthusian Theory:

Thomas Robert Malthus was the first economist to propose a systematic theory of population. He articulated his views regarding population in his famous book, Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), for which he collected empirical data to support his thesis. He argued that if left unchecked, a population will outgrow its resources, leading to a host of problems.

However, the theory has outlived. Even when it was proposed by the Malthus for the first time, it was criticized regarding its applicability to various societies.

China’s scenario:

China has a population of over 1.4 billion, 30% of which is over the age of 50. There is also huge gender imbalance. China needs more people for joining workforce, So Communist Party of China has changed one-child policy to a two-child policy as the country is looking further ahead that China to have larger families. The working population in China is coming down and elderly population is going up.

According to some, decisions concerning childbirth should be left to individuals exercising their free will. China should discontinue its distorted policy of forcefully restricting the number of children a family can have. In most countries, the government’s role in family planning is limited to educational and awareness campaigns at most. China’s one-child policy, which has been in place since 1979, was originally a response to concerns about food shortages. But this drastic population control policy has been internationally criticized because it has involved serious human rights violations, including forced abortions.

India is the first country to have its own official Family Planning Programme. Since independence, at every level India has been following voluntary approach to check the population growth. It is also being said that China’s population control policy was a violation of human right.

China needs to rely even more on the force of reasoning, rather than on legal compulsion. The removal of the one-child policy is surely an important move in that direction. However, China has more challenges to address. China has also been saying that it is at the end of the demographic dividend.