One Child Policy and Child Poverty in China

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Carnegie Mellon University
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The Jihua Shengyu is a phrase used to characterize the birth planning methodology imposed on the people of China through the one-child policy that was enacted in 1979 CITATION Tyr06 \l 1033 (White, 2006). Over the years, the policy has become one of the most controversial population control campaigns in the world. In addition, over the last three decades, it has attained massive evaluation and criticism from various scholars and human rights activists around the world. However, amid its continued criticism, it has been successfully enacted in the Chinese government and aided in significantly reducing the total population of the nation. Most of the human rights activists who opposed the policy condemned the wide spread neglect of the female children, as well as forced abortions and sterilizations of women. The primary focus of the one-child policy was aimed at eradicating the high level of poverty evidenced in the nation.

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It was targeted to ensure that the population of the nation could be served effectively by the scarce national resources that were available in the nation. Despite the imperative objectives of the one-child policy, recent statistics have still portrayed that there is a high level of child poverty that can still be manifested in a nation. This is more so in the rural regions of China where numerous young children lack accessibility to essential basic wants such as quality education and proper healthcare services among others. This essay will focus on addressing the issue of child poverty in China by citing the impact of the one-child policy on the Chinese families. It will also offer a comparison of how the one-child policy affected both the urban and rural areas in China in respect to child poverty. In addition, the essay will illustrate how the Hukou system contributed to the increase of rural child poverty. And also discuss what happened to the rural migrant children who were affected by the one-child policy since 1979.

Brief History On the Development and Implementation of One Child Policy

The origins of the massive birth control campaign through the one-child policy in China can be traced in the 1950s CITATION Cha12 \l 1033 (Kwok-bun, 2012). The method was introduced to the nations parliament by a group of intellectuals who were focused on educating the government on the challenges of unchecked population growth. From that time, Chinese leaders started to lobby meetings aimed at discussing the problem of rapid growth in the nation. They saw the growth as a potential threat to the nations general economic development as well as the availability of food surplus. In the 1950s, the nation started to popularize birth control policies, especially in the densely populated regions of the nation. This was followed by propaganda campaigns in the 1960s that aimed at promoting late marriages among the Chinese couples. The campaigns also publicized the adoption of a two child family and the importance of adopting birth control interventions.

In the 1970s, 250 million additional people since 1950 had been born CITATION Bar141 \l 1033 (Barry & Frankland, 2014). The nation required a drastic measure to control the continued population growth in the nation. In 1970, the Chinese government developed a two-step campaign aimed at reducing the increasing population growth CITATION Bar07 \l 1033 (Naughton, 2007). The first step began by extending the use of contraceptives as well as abortion services in the rural communities. They also aggressively promoted the merits of late marriages. Also, the community members especially those in the rural regions were also encouraged to have longer intervals between births and also enlightened on the advantages of having smaller families. After five years up to1975, the urban fertility rate had fallen below 1.8% while the rural fertility rate was below 4% CITATION Bar141 \l 1033 (Barry & Frankland, 2014). Nevertheless, half of the population of China at that time was below 21 years CITATION Bar141 \l 1033 (Barry & Frankland, 2014). As such, new aggressive methods of birth control needed to be developed. This is what led to the creation of the one child policy in 1979.

The primary goal of the one child policy in the 1980s was focused on maintaining the population of China at 1.2 billion and below by the year 2000 CITATION Dud13 \l 1033 (Dudley, et al., 2013). In addition, the Chinese people were encouraged to have a single child by being offered material and financial incentives. They were also offered prolonged paid pregnancy leaves of up to 3 years, salary increments of 5% to 10% CITATION Dud13 \l 1033 (Dudley, et al., 2013). They were also offered preferential access to various social amenities such as housing, schools, as well as health care services. On the other hand, couples who also got the second child became excluded from such benefits and instead suffered penalties in form of fines that were paid to the government. They also suffered from social pressure and they were also curtailed from various career prospects especially in the government jobs.

Manifestation of Child Poverty in China

Child Abandonment

Since the enactment of the one-child policy, millions of children in both the rural and urban areas of China had been abandoned. This has been attributed to various factors such as the preference of a male child in comparison to a female child. By 1998, the national rate of children abandonment was estimated 4.5% (WHO, 2011). Most of the abandonment children were mostly female children. In most cases, they had been abandoned in hospitals and other public social amenities. The primary reason for abandonment was based on the traditional beliefs in the Chinese community that sons could inherit the familys heritage, both emotionally and financially. On the other hand, girls were viewed as liabilities because they were expensive to bring up and the families had to pay bridal dowries to have them married. From 1986 to 1990, over 16,000 abandoned children had been brought to the nations Civil Affairs Department that is situated in the Hunan province CITATION Gai07 \l 1033 (Hershatter, 2007). This high statistic created an immense pressure on the government, as they had to reserve sufficient resources to cater for the high number of abandoned children in the nation.

The high rate of children abandonment also manifested significant challenges in form of the unbalanced sex ratios of children in the nation. This is because it resulted in a high rate of disparity in sex balance of children in the nation, specifically in respect to the urban-rural children sex ratio. One of the primary international criticisms that were perpetrated towards the one child policy was focused on its consequences of encouraging the discrimination of female sex newborns who were either abandoned, aborted or unregistered in the nation. In addition, female children were also disadvantaged when it came to the provision of healthcare and education amenities.

During the first 20 years of the one-child policy implementation, the sex ratio of the of new-born children - boys and girls, had escalated to 108.5 in 1985 to approximately 119 in 2005 CITATION All13 \l 1033 (All Girls Allowed, 2013). It was also found that the sex ratio was also very high at 125 in approximately 99 different cities in China CITATION All13 \l 1033 (All Girls Allowed, 2013). This phenomenon contributed to an escalating poverty level facing the abandoned female children in the nation. This is because they were not offered essential basic amenities such as quality education which could aid them in becoming future productive members of the society.

Since the implementation of the one-child policy with different standards in both urban and rural regions, the fertility rates of residents in the rural communities have been significantly high. This is in comparison to the rates recorded for urban residents. In the 1990s, the fertility rates of women in the rural areas were between 1.6% to 2%, which was significantly higher than the fertility rates of urban women that were estimated to be between 1.1% to 1.2% CITATION Enc12 \l 1033 (Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 2012). This phenomenon resorted into a zero growth rate in population in some of the major metropolitan cities in China, such as Shanghai. In addition, this resulted into a great disparity in economic development levels between urban and rural regions due to unbalanced fertility rates.

Consequently, this immensely disadvantaged most rural families because they were poor and also, to a large extent, greatly affected the economy of the Chinese society. In addition, the increase in the poverty level among persons in the rural communities was characterized by a high level of child poverty since most families were unable to offer essential basic amenities to their children. However, in comparison to the urban centers, child poverty levels in the cities was slightly low. This is because a significant proportion of children in the region accessed schools and medical facilities.

High Number of Disabled Children Population in Orphanages

The one-child policy has also been critiqued for its participation in the increase of the abandonment of children suffering from various forms of disability. According to the Chinese society, disabled children were viewed as curses or extreme burdens to their families. In most cases, pregnant women attended government enacted healthcare facilities where they could have an ultrasound to detect the sex and health conditions of their unborn children. In numerous parts of the nation, if it was determined that fetus was female or disabled, it was aborted before reaching its full gestation period. Nevertheless, for pregnant women who were not able to access such social amenities, they resulted to abandoning their disabled newborns to avoid social stigmatization.

Such women were also keen to avoid the high cost involved in taking care of disabled children. In addition, most of the abandoned and disabled children migrated to the urban regions in such of greener pastures for themselves. In the cities, they could beg for food and financial assistance from middleclass earners who had better economic standings in the society. In addition, this phenomenon led to mass migration of the abandoned children to the urban cities, thereby significantly increasing the rate of poor children in such regions. Consequently, the government enacted multiple orphanages aimed at safeguarding the welfare of the disabled and abandoned female children.

The Hukou System and Its Contribution to Child Poverty

Recent statistics suggest that there are approximately 277 million persons in China who are rural migrant workers CITATION Dun14 \l 1033 (Dunford & Weidong, 2014). This statistic makes up more than a third of the entire working population in China. Migrant workers have been the essential labor force that has contributed to the rapid growth of the nations economy for the last three decades. Nevertheless, most migrant workers have remained marginalized in the society and also subjected to various forms of institutionalized discrimination. In addition, most of their children have limited access to essential healthcare services and quality education and in most cases, they remain separated from their parents and families for years.

Since its creation, the Hukou system was focused on controlling the rural-urban migration of the Chinese people CITATION Jas13 \l 1033 (Young, 2013). It aimed at ensuring that persons who stayed in the rural areas remained in the countryside working on their farms to produce food and other resources. Nevertheless, through the economic reforms of the nation during t...

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