Thinking of Future Generation: The Empirical Study of China Post One-Child Policy



In the beginning of 2016, the ending of the 36 years One Child Policy was pronounced by the Chinese government substituting it with another policy known as two-child policy (Feng, Gu, & Cai, 2016). For over three decades, family members in china has been constrained to having just a single child but now a second child has been legally permitted which makes the change very significant in the history of china. However, a series of research has been done that seeks to predict the effects of the universal Two-Child Policy on population, social, health and economic development.

One-Child Policy

The One-Child Policy was introduced in 1979 by the Chinese Government who considered population containment as essential to lifting China out of severe poverty caused by decades of economic mismanagement (Sudbeck & Sudbeck, 2012).

The population grew from over 540 million to above 800 million people between 1950 and 1970. Government responded to this growth by launching a policy known as later-longer-fewer- policy (Abrahamson, 2016). The aim was to reduce the amount of child bearing and to encourage people to space the years between their children. This led to a great decline in total fertility rate. In 1970, the estimated birth per woman was 5.9 while in 1979; it has reduced drastically to 2.9 births per woman. The major concern of this policy was that in spite the policy’s success and achievement, there was still high level of population in the country which brought about the implementation of one child policy. This implementation brings about a continuous decrease in fertility rate. Findings from different data showed that the total fertility rate had dropped from 1.7 to 1.5 as at the end of the 1990s (Huang et al., 2019). The policy was largely imposed on the urban residents because of the increasing urban migration from 20% in 1980 to 50% in 2010. This rule actually wasn’t famous in the rural areas and it wasn’t strictly enforced (Sudbeck & Sudbeck, 2012), so from 1984 rural couples are permitted in most provinces to give birth to second child with the condition that they had given birth to a girl before. The second child, regardless of the gender of the first child was granted to the couples living in rural areas in the six northwestern regions. Two or more children were allowed for ethnic minorities, who account for around 9% of the total population (Feng et al., 2016).  These variations created a substantial difference in total fertility rate between rural and urban regions (Huang et al., 2019). The national family planning commission was in charge of the implementation. However, the system was not consistently administered and punishment or fine given to law breakers is controlled by the local officials (Islam & Smyth, 2015).

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The authorities claim that 400 million births have been prevented, which contributed to increasing per capita GDP (Zhang, 2007). But this assertion is contested by claims that the higher number of prevented births includes the effects of the later-longer-fewer policy, and that the one-child policy has prevented closer to 200 million births (Abrahamson, 2016; Islam & Smyth, 2015). In addition, many scholars believe that rapid economic development alone would have reduced fertility substantially, as has been the case in many other developing countries, such as Thailand where the total fertility rate decreased from 5·6 in 1970, to 2·1 in 1990 (Prasartkul & Ipsr, 2012). This shows that with sharp decline in fertility in the later-longer-fewer- policy generated the issues of questioning the necessity of one child policy. This has led to a widely discussed issue on the effects of one child policy on children’s well-being. These effects were described as over pampering of the child which affect the maturity and sense of responsibility of the child (Zhao, 2018). But the evidence is mixed. For example, studies that control for confounders show that only children have higher academic achievement, higher self-esteem, and greater confidence (Abrahamson, 2016; Fong, 2002) all of which might contribute to better health outcomes. This is as a result of investing the family resources on the child especially in terms of quality education and health (Fong, 2002). However, there is also evidence to the contrary: a series of studies in young adult soldiers have shown that soldiers with siblings are significantly more motivated, hardworking, obedient, sociable, and mentally stable than are those who are only children (Feng et al., 2016; Huang et al., 2019).

In fact, fears about ageing populations were probably the most influential factor. Although aging populations are on the rise worldwide, one- child policy accelerated the process in China (Islam & Smyth, 2015). Even though the government-financed New Rural Old Age Insurance Programme which began in 2009, the majority of Chinese old-age persons, particularly those from rural areas, do not have the full pension coverage, so are largely dependent on their children for financial support (Zhao, 2018). Confucian tradition still dictates that care of the elderly parents is a filial duty. China is probably unique in the fact that laws require adult children to provide for their elderly parents welfare and financial support. This culture has a huge effect on 4:2:1 family system. Although sons have traditionally supported parents financially (Abrahamson, 2016) daughters (and sons-in-law) have generally cared for their older parents (Islam & Smyth, 2015). Thus, the shortage of women, partly caused by the one-child policy, is having a large impact on the welfare of the elderly parents particularly in the rural areas. The continuous increase in the population of elderly parents is also mounting heavy pressures on the country’s health system, which has not yet been adjusted to handle the complexity issues surrounding co-morbidities of the ageing population (Huang et al., 2019).

Two-Child Policy

Demographers warned of the negative consequences of the one-child policy almost from the outset (Abrahamson, 2016). Their arguments centered on the fact that the demographic dividend—i.e., the accelerated economic growth that results from a decline in fertility and mortality—was reversing. The negative effects soon started to exceed the positive. These negative effects are increasing population ageing, the skewed gender ratio and the decrease of the workforce, which actually threaten economic growth. Moreover, in 1980 the government had pledged that the one-child policy would last for just one generation, so change was overdue. But contrary to the views of most demographers (Feng et al., 2016), the government feared that lifting the policy would lead to a baby boom, so the government’s response has been cautious with a series of gradually introduced exemptions. By 2007, all of the provinces had begun to allow couples that were both the only child of their family to give birth to two children (apart from Henan, which also joined in 2011). In November 2013, another policy was implemented which allowed couples to have two children in as much as one of the marital partners was an only child. However, among 11 million couples that are eligible, only 1.45% applied for a second child’s permit by May 2015 (Fong, 2002) and this is as a result of high educational costs in cities and exorbitant costs of taken care of children in the urban areas (Zhao, 2018). The couples who applied for a second child were younger, had higher household income, a young first child more likely to be girl, and parents who wanted a second grandchild (Sudbeck & Sudbeck, 2012). This low uptake, together with appeals from scholars and the media have probably accelerated the announcement of the universal two-child policy.

The effects include but not limited to fertility, ageing population, population size, workforce and economic development, sex ration, population health, health system, natural resources and environment.

Problem Statement

The policy was enacted to address the growth rate of the country’s population, which the government viewed as being too rapid. The policy has achieved success to some extent in controlling the population growth in China. However, there is the issue of increasing ageing population. The ageing of population has been a global phenomenon in all modern societies. It is largely because of the improvement in nutrition, health care and medication that is also connected to the extension of life expectancy. The increased ageing of China’s population is a side product of the implementation of the OCP. Before the policy Chinese population was mainly consisting of young people, and those above the age of 65 only accounted for 4.4 percent in 1953. The proportion of population of age between 0 and 14 dropped from 40.7 percent in 1964 to 19.5 percent in 2005. According to those numbers, the proportion of 65 years old or older increased from 4.9 percent in 1982 to 9.1 percent in 2005. According to the United Nations, the proportion of elderly people in China is expected to grow to 13.2 percent by 2025 to 22.7 percent by 2050 (United Nations, 2012). As a result, the two child policy was introduced for the purpose of producing younger generation. However, the major concern is in the willingness of parents to give birth to another child in the presence of pressure from workforce policy, stress in taking care of children and the over busy schedule of parents. Naturally, this attributes is common in every industrialized nations. But if the ageing population is getting higher than the younger population, this can cause a negative effect on the economic growth and development of the country. Therefore, this research aims at designing strategies and policy framework which will promote effective implementation of two child policy sustainable social development.

Research Goal and Objectives


The main objective of this study is to examine the Social Cohesion measures associated to China’s two child policy as well improving the wellbeing and quality of life of citizens by suggesting some effective mechanisms and policies to promote the efficiency of the existing policy.


To achieve the main goal, four objectives have been set as followings:

1. To analyze the current state of post One Child policy efficiency.

2.  To examine the social cohesion and behavioral intention to adopt the two child policy among family members.

3.  To examine the effect of two child policy on poverty reduction strategy in China.

4. To suggest some effective mechanisms and policies that will aid in promoting the implementation of the new policy.

Research Questions

The following questions will offer a direction to achieve the goal and objective of this study:

  1. What is the current state of post one child policy efficiency?
  2. What are the main factors that influence social cohesion and intention of family members to have second child?
  3. How effective can two child policy influence poverty reduction in China?
  4. What are mechanisms and policies that can aid the implementation of post one child policy?

Significance of the Research

This study will contribute informatively to the scant information on the two child policy and behavioral attitude of family members and their decision to take up the responsibility of having a second child. Theoretically, the study will also contribute to the previous literature on social cohesion, population control, protective measures and poverty alleviation as a concept in United Nation’s sustainable development.  In addition, the results of the study will be very useful for policy makers as well as educators to form effective policies and mechanisms toward targeted populations in order to promote the citizens welfare. The different levels of study will also bring different levels of the findings and aspects that are imperative to understand the theoretical and basic variables which could lead to an effective resolutions and promote economic growth and development.

Research Hypothesis

H1: The current state of Two Child Policy is positive in garnering acceptance from the Chinese society.

H2: Government cohesive measures influence the willingness of family members to have a second child.

H3: The Two Child Policy is effective in reducing poverty in china.

H4: The effective and strict policies and laws positively promote the implementation and enforcement of Two Child Policy.


The research will adopt both qualitative and quantitative method of data collection. The quantitative data will include questionnaire which will be distributed to 600 family members across China. Some few provinces will be selected for the study so as to capture the experiences of different province policies. In addition, data from government agency on one child policy, poverty alleviation data, ageing population data will also be analyzed while the qualitative data will involve conducting an interview for 20 government officers. The research will adopt a descriptive interview survey research design. Saunders et al. (2012) defines survey research as the collection of quantifiable data from population for purposes of description on identify verifications that may point to casual relationships. The design will be appropriate for the study as it will capture people’s attitudes, opinions and perception on the implementation of the new policy effect and the socio-economic wellbeing to promote proper implementation of the two child policy. The interview survey design will be suitable because it involve one on one interaction with respondents, appropriate collection of information, and helps the interviewer to ask detailed questions concerning the subject matter.

Research Onion Adapted from Saunders et al., 2012

Data Analysis

The descriptive statistical analyses will preliminarily perform in IBM SPSS v.20.0 (IBM,
Armonk, NY, USA) to analyze the descriptive statistics of the socio-demographic status of the respondents. Then, the study will use ATLAS.ti to transcribed and analyze the interview data after doing open coding and arranging it in theme. From the questionnaire, regression analysis will be used to analyze the effect of one variable on another.

The study also will employ partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) to
test research model and to predict relationships, both between latent variables (constructs) and
observed variables (indicators) by using Smart PLS 3.0 software.

Ethical Consideration

It will be a self-administered cross-sectional questionnaire that will be designed to protect respondents’ rights by allowing anonymous and voluntary participation. The procedures of the data collection will also be verified by an academic supervisor from Nanjing University.
The researchers will approach respondents and sought their consent before the questionnaire will be distributed. A letter of consent will be written on the first page of the questionnaire.

Expected results

Particularly, this study will be among the first investigation to examine people’s perception on the two child policy. It will provide initiative concept and direction for policy makers and population control agency to be aware of family members’willingness to have second child after properly considering the pros and cons involved.

Specifically, the study will:

Firstly, it is expected that family members will consider many factors (direct and indirect) to influence their decision making in having a second child. The factors include but not limited to cost of rearing a new child, quality of life, pressure from workforce, perception of considering a sibling for the only child etc.

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Secondly, exhibit the current state of post one child policy by examining the relationship between increase in population and poverty alleviation strategy. Regarding these expected findings, the study will offer an evidence for policy makers as well as development partners to design an appropriate policy and program in order to promote the effectiveness of implementing the new policy.

Finally, also contribute to the Theory of social cohesion for which previous studies were
using it to study in other fields rather than in the field of population control and human behavioral perception together.

Proposed Research Timetable

Duration Core Activity Sub Activities
6 months Proposal writing and defense -Discussing topic and proposal techniques with the supervisor

-Writing a proposal

-Designing the interview procedure

-Finalize the proposal


2 months Data collection (field survey) -Drafting a letter of consent

-Visit targeted locations

-Conducting field surveys

-Conducting interviews with key informants, experts, and government officials

2 months Data analysis Coding data

-Data entry

-Analyzing data

-Interpreting data and results

3 months Writing papers (expected 2 papers) Writing two or more papers

-Selecting SCI/SSCI journals

-Submitting papers

3 months Writing a dissertation Revising the draft edition

-Adding some more parts to draft

-Writing the thesis chapters

-Finalizing the final edition

2 months Submission for external review Submitting to external reviewers


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  • Fong, V. L. (2002). China’s One-Child Policy and the Empowerment of Urban Daughters, 104(4).
  • Huang, J., Qin, D., Jiang, T., Wang, Y., Feng, Z., Zhai, J., & Cao, L. (2019). Effect of Fertility Policy Changes on the Population Structure and Economy of China : from the Perspective of the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways.
  • Islam, A., & Smyth, R. (2015). DO FERTILITY CONTROL POLICIES AFFECT HEALTH IN OLD AGE ?, 616(April 2014), 601–616.
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  • Prasartkul, P., & Ipsr, P. V. (2012). “Thailand’s birth rate dropped to 760,000 births per year from more than a million births thirty years ago. Meanwhile the mortality rate is now at 400,000 deaths per year. The gap between birth rates and death rates has shrunk very quickly.”, 760–761.
  • Saunders, M., Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (2007). Research Methods for Business Students, (6th ed.) London: Pearson.
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  • Zhang, H. (2007). From Resisting to “ Embracing ?’’ the One-Child Rule : Understanding New Fertility Trends in a Central China Village *, 59(77).

  • Zhao, L. (2018). Do only children have poor vision ? Evidence from China ’ s One ‐ Child Policy, (January), 1–16.
  • United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. [Accessed Sept 20, 2016] World Population Prospects, the 2012 Revision.

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