Context:

For the first time allowed couples to have a third child in a further relaxation of family planning rules five years after a “two-child policy” largely failed to boost birth rates.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Population related issues), GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Two-Child Policy?
  2. About the recent census and trend in China’s Population
  3. About the Problem of China’s dropping Population and Age
  4. Population Growth in India and the Challenges

What is the Two-Child Policy?

  • The two-child policy is a state-imposed limit of two children allowed per family or the payment of government subsidies only to the first two children.
  • A two-child policy has previously been used in several countries including Iran, Singapore, and Vietnam.
  • In British Hong Kong in the 1970s, citizens were also highly encouraged to have two children as a limit (although it was not mandated by law), and it was used as part of the region’s family planning strategies.
  • Since 2016, it has been re-implemented in China replacing the country’s previous one-child policy.

About the recent census and trend in China’s Population

  • The latest census shows that the number of births in China in 2020 is lower than 1961 – to put it into perspective, 1961 is the year when China was in the midst of a four-year famine unleashed by Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward policy in 1958 that devastated the farm sector and claimed millions of lives.
  • China’s population was 1.41 billion in 2020, according to the census, increasing by 72 million since the last census in 2010, recording a 5.38% growth in this period. The average annual growth was 0.53%.
  • The slowing growth rate, a consequence of China’s stringent family planning rules over decades – known as the “one-child policy” but involving a range of varying restrictions across urban and rural areas – has evoked concerns of a rapidly ageing society and the impact on China’s labour force, and fears that China will, as some experts have said, “get old before it gets rich.”
  • The census recorded 264 million in the age group of 60 and over, up by more than 5% since 2010 and accounting for almost 20% of the population. Those in the 15-59 age group were just under 900 million persons, down by almost 7% since 2010 and accounting for just over 60% of the population.
  • The findings from the census were not entirely dire. The census also shed light on China’s increasingly educated workforce and its rapid pace of urbanisation.
  • With the number of births falling for the fourth consecutive year, experts say that we will likely see China’s population peak – and be overtaken by India’s – by as early as 2025.

About the Problem of China’s dropping Population and Age

  • Chinese experts acknowledged the seriousness of the problem, without linking it directly to the history of the Communist Party’s harsh family planning policies.
  • China loosened family planning rules and allowed couples to have two children in in 2016, but that has failed to mark a boom amid changing lifestyles and declining preferences, particularly in urban areas, for larger families.
  • The impact on the labour force and healthcare is a particular concern. China’s workforce in the 15-59 age bracket peaked at 925 million in 2011, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said previously. That number was down to 894 million in this census and would drop to 700 million by 2050, according to the ministry.
  • The census did not offer a specific year for the population to peak, but experts said that could happen by 2025.

Population Growth in India and the Challenges

  • According to the UN’s World Population Prospects 2019 report, India is projected to become the most populous country by 2027 surpassing China and host 1.64 billion people by 2050. The fertility rate in the country still lies in the range of 2.1-4.
  • It would be a challenge to achieve optimal fertility rate in states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh — which have higher fertility rate as per Sample Registration System data.
  • India’s low literacy rate and poor skilling of human capital will turn demographic dividend into a burden. There will be a need to spend more on education, healthcare system, grow more food, and to add capacity to basic infrastructures, such as roads, transport, electricity, and sewage to provide a minimum quality of life to every citizen.
  • As per India Ageing Report 2017 by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) the share of the population over the age of 60 could increase from 8% in 2015 to 19% in 2050. India will have to spend more on their health along with geriatric care.
  • In the face of an increasing population, unequal distribution of income and inequalities within the country would be a possible outcome.

-Source: The Hindu

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