Why is China’s birthrate declining?
In 1980, China introduced a nationwide one-child policy to combat the country’s accelerating birthrate. Between 1980 and 2016 (when the repressive policy ended), around 400 million births were prevented, according to the Chinese government. Whilst the policy was in place, a preference for sons was not uncommon which led to many baby girls being aborted, killed just after birth, abandoned or placed in orphanages.
In 2015, the BBC reported that during the 2000s, 21 boys per 1,000 live births died whereas the figure amongst girls was 28 per 1,000. Moreover, the report notes that “infant mortality figures cover all reasons for death [yet] the change is notable.” The increased incidence of girls dying isn’t exclusively due to infanticide, however, and it’s quite possible that parents chose to allocate healthcare and nurturing resources to sons rather than daughters.
Those complying with the policy were offered financial rewards and improved employment options. Those who didn’t comply were at risk of strict enforcement measures, including forced abortions and forced sterilisation. In families who already had one child, any additional children born often went undocumented, causing issues registering for education and employment as well as problems securing housing later in life.
The repressive policy was revoked in 2016 but in that 36 year period, a reduction in the number of girls born and surviving childhood meant there were fewer women reaching child-bearing age. According to Britannica, there were 33.59 million more men than women when the law was repealed for a two-child policy. Since 2021, the law has been relaxed further to allow families have up to three children.