China takes one step away from the one-child policy | Bangkok Post: opinion

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China takes one step away from the one-child policy

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  • Newspaper section: News
  • Writer: Adam Minter
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China's notorious "one-child" population-control strategy has always been about money and resources. Did China have sufficient food to feed a billion mouths? Could a rapidly expanding population be led into a modern, market-oriented future? Morality, social impacts and the preservation of Chinese culture were seemingly secondary concerns, even in the face of international condemnation of coercive means to enforce the policy. 

Now, more than three decades into the "one-child" policy (actually, a set of policies restricting the number of children Chinese may have), the economic calculus that made Chinese population control a logical and even necessary (in the eyes of many Chinese) course of action is faltering. As a result, last week the Chinese government took the first steps toward reforming how its population-control policies are devised, enforced and perceived.

China's once cheap and plentiful pool of workers is becoming more scarce and expensive; the labour force declined by 3.45 million in 2012 and is expected to decrease by 10 million per year starting in 2025. The shrinking pool of workers will be forced to support an expanding population of senior citizens _ 200 million in 2013 _ that is expected to arrive at 360 million (more than the current US population) in 2030. Meanwhile, over the next two decades, pension liabilities may reach more than US$10 trillion.

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