China’s One-Child Policy: The Aftermath of Disastrous Decision-Making

Introduction: The History of the One-Child Policy

China’s One-Child Policy was justifiably considered by many to be a horrendous violation of human rights. First steps towards implementation of this policy were first discussed by the Chinese government in the 1960s, after the average births-per-woman reached six (Zhang and Junsen 142). As the population of China continued to grow, overpopulation began to be a problem. At the onset of the 1970s, Mao commanded for the population growth to be controlled. In 1979, the One-Child Policy was officially enacted, implementing a birth quota of no more than one child per couple (Zhang and Junsen 143). The methods for promotion and maintenance of the policy ranged form humane (increased availability of contraceptives, monetary incentives, and preferential employment for those who comply) to violent and abhorrent (forced abortions and sterilizations). This resulted in a rapid and significant drop in China’s birth rates and equally sharp decline in fertility rates, as well as a highly uneven female-to-male ratio among the young population. The policy was gradually relaxed and changed over time to first allow certain families to have more than one child. In 2015, all couples were allowed to have two children. At the same time, the necessity to apply to have a child was also lifted, leaving only the mandatory registration of the child after their birth (Zeng et al. 143). This change was caused by the drastic and disastrous consequences that the One-Child Policy had on the Chinese population and the country as a whole.

The Disastrous Effects of the One-Child Policy

The One-Child Policy had an array of negative effects on China, which continue to affect it to this day. The policy changed the way family structures worked in China. This caused a great decline in population that is already being felt today as more and more of China’s population ages and enters the retirement age, as indicated by the rising elderly dependency ratio. (Zhang and Junsen 156). However, due to the limitations of the One-Child Policy, 85% of urban and 60% of rural families had only one child, greatly limiting the young population during the time the policy was in effect (Guo et al. 361) As a result, there may not be enough young people to support this aging population, which may force the government to increase retirement ages to keep the elderly in the workforce. Another massive problem being faced by China is the decrease in fertility due to the mass sterilizations and abortions that were carried out due to ‘unauthorized’ pregnancies or after reaching the one child limit. These birth planning enforcements – also called ‘menstrual monitors’ – rose in the 1970s and became only more active through the One-Child Policy. Among the methods were sterilizations, IUD insertions, and forced abortions (Zhang and Junsen 143). A large number of these procedures were done against the women’s will. When deciding to have a child, preference was given to males, which led to a massive increase in sex-based abortions of female fetuses and baby girls being abandoned. There were also instances of child infanticide of unwanted female infants by their own parents. Other children were born illegally without permission from the government and thus were unable to obtain legal status. This barred many from healthcare, education, and other amenities afforded only to legal citizens. Many young girls became victims of child trafficking, the main purpose for which was illegal adoption, for which abductions of infants around 15 months old were the most common (Wang et al. 254). Among other consequences are increase in sex trafficking, a general rise in crime rates, and many other issues that will take many years to properly resolve even now that the One-Child Policy has been abolished.

Conclusion: What Can Be Done?

The One-Child Policy had a severe and disastrous effect on China’s population, marking it as one of the most disastrous policies in the nation’s history. With the birth and fertility rates staggeringly low and threatening to be unable to support the aging population, as well as the vast disparity in the male to female ratio, the government must act. Measures must be put in place to curb further decline. Firstly, it would be wise to implement a proper system for family planning and to encourage couples to have more than one child. This would slowly allow the birth rate to even out. It is also important to care and support those who have been harmed by the One-Child Policy, especially the women who have been forcibly sterilized or lost the ability to have children after forced abortions. Though their ability to have a child cannot be restored, they deserve to at least be compensated for their suffering and to have their health supported going forward. Finally, to improve the demographic situation in the country, it may be prudent to seek young people from outside of China. Attracting young women to the country with increased educational and professional opportunities would help even out the imbalanced gender ratio. This tactic would be vastly more useful than promoting the birthing of female children within the nation, as this could lead to another rise of sex-specific abortions, as was seen during the One-Child Policy. Finally, it is important to remember the effects that the policy had on the country and to not let history repeat itself in the future.

Works Cited

Jiajun Guo, Shengjie Lin & Yawei Guo (2018) Sex, Birth Order, and Creativity in the Context of China’s One-Child Policy and Son Preference, Creativity Research Journal, 30:4, 361-369. Web.

Wang, Zhen; Wei, Liyuan; Peng, Sha; Deng, Liangchun; Niu, Beibei (2018). Child-trafficking networks of illegal adoption in China. Nature Sustainability, 1(5), 254-260.

Zeng, Shuxi, et al. “Is Being an Only Child Harmful to Psychological Health?: Evidence from an Instrumental Variable Analysis of China’s One‐Child Policy.” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society), vol. 183, no. 4, 2020, pp. 1615–1635. Web.

Zhang, Junsen. “The Evolution of China’s One-Child Policy and Its Effects on Family Outcomes.” Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 31, no. 1, 2017, pp. 141–160. Web.

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"China’s One-Child Policy: The Aftermath of Disastrous Decision-Making." DemoEssays, 24 Feb. 2023,


DemoEssays. (2023) 'China’s One-Child Policy: The Aftermath of Disastrous Decision-Making'. 24 February.


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1. DemoEssays. "China’s One-Child Policy: The Aftermath of Disastrous Decision-Making." February 24, 2023.


DemoEssays. "China’s One-Child Policy: The Aftermath of Disastrous Decision-Making." February 24, 2023.