How China’s One-Child Policy Led To Forced Abortions, 30 Million Bachelors
Last October, China ended its 35-year-old policy of restricting most urban families to one child. Commonly referred to as the “one-child” policy, the restrictions were actually a collection of rules that governed how many children married couples could have.
“The basic idea was to encourage everybody, by coercion if necessary, to keep to … one child,” journalist Mei Fong tells Fresh Air’s, Terry Gross.
Fong explores the wide-ranging impact of what she calls the world’s “most radical experiment” in her new book, One Child. She says that among the policy’s unintended consequences is an acute gender imbalance.
“When you create a system where you would shrink the size of a family and people would have to choose, then people would … choose sons,” Fong says. “Now China has 30 million more men than women, 30 million bachelors who cannot find brides. … They call them Guang guan, ‘broken branches,’ that’s the name in Chinese. They are the biological dead ends of their family.”
Fong says the policy also led to forced abortions and the confiscation of children by the authorities. Looking ahead, China is also facing a shortage of workers who can support its aging population.
“Right now China has a dependency ratio of about five working adults to support one retiree. That’s pretty good, that’s a very healthy ratio. In about 20 years that’s going to jump to about 1.6 working adults to support one retiree,” Fong says. “The one-child policy drastically reshaped the composition of China’s people. So now they have a population that’s basically too old and too male and, down the line, maybe too few.”