Print Friendly, PDF & Email

China’s one-child policy

Topics covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

China’s one-child policy

What to study?

For Prelims: What is one child policy? Malthusian theory- overview.

For Mains: Significance and overview of the policy.

Context: The birth rate in China has fallen to the lowest in 70 years.


  1. Birth rate in 2019 was at 10.48 per 1,000, the lowest since 1949.
  2. The number of babies born in 2019 fell by over 580,000 to 14.65 million.
  3. This fall in birth rate can be largely attributed to China’s one-child policy, which came into force in 1979 under then leader Deng Xiaoping.

Why One Child Policy was adopted by China?

It was adopted out of the Malthusian fears that unchecked population growth would lead to economic and environmental catastrophe. It was also a response to concerns about food shortages.

What is Malthusian theory all about?

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.

Was the Policy Effective?

In essence, it did bring down the population by 400 million, according to Chinese officials.

  • But, it failed to spark a baby boom. When the announcement was made, 11 million couples were eligible to have a second child. As such, officials were expecting around two million births in 2014.
  • That figure never came into fruition as only 700,000 couples applied for the new dispensation and only 620,000 were given a permit. In other words, China is facing a huge demographic issue in the next years to come. They have a rapidly aging population where a quarter will be over 60 by 2030.

What’s good about One Child Policy?

  1. Helps to ease the over population problems.
  2. It is seen as practical by some families.
  3. Lowers the poverty rate.

Why it isn’t a good idea?

  1. The enforcement is unequal.
  2. It is a human rights violation.
  3. Shrinking work population.
  4. Gender imbalance due to the strong cultural preference of boys for labor and work.
  5. Increase in abortions and female infanticide.
  6. Extra babies end up being illegal and never becoming a citizen, due to fines.
  7. Intrudes on people’s personal values and opinions.

Why such policies are not suitable for India?

  1. The implications of such a policy being enforced in India would surely have been more disastrous than it did in China.
  2. India is way behind China in basic development indicators like life expectancy, IMR and maternal mortality rate. The preference of a male child, the regional disparities in development, and the growing intolerance against minorities in the present milieu would be further magnified with the state entering homes and enforcing such strict norms.
  3. The fact that women are at the receiving end of such policies in a patriarchal society is another story in itself. The burden of limiting family size falls on the woman, and most often female sterilisations are promoted rather than giving the couple the choice of contraception.
  4. Limiting family size cannot be an end in itself at the neglect of basic needs and services like food security, housing, education, and health.

Sources: the Hindu.