China Finally Ends Its One-Child Policy After More Than 30 Years

Here's what the country is doing instead.

China has finally decided to lift its one-child policy, according to a statement by the Communist Party. The rule, which has been amended to now allow two children per household, required families to have no more than one child. 

The one-child policy was put in place in 1979 to keep the country's population under control, which in 2013 was a whopping 1.4 billion, making China the most populous nation in the world. 

The Chinese government hopes that the two-child policy will help spur the economy and balance out gender. But the true win comes from moving away from a policy that has had truly debilitating effects. 

Leaving the One-Child Policy Behind

Because families could only have one child, many favored boys to continue the family lineage. This resulted in a huge gender imbalance and higher rates of abortion and infanticide of unwanted baby girls. According to Reuters, the global boy-to-girl ratio is 103 to 107, but in China, for every 100 girls there are 188 boys. More boys, they argue, can lead to a more hostile environment, especially when women are already underrepresented and frequently silenced throughout the country.that gender. Per Quartz, the one-child policy may have had a role

Moreover, boys are frequently kidnapped and sold to families who want a male child. Per Quartz, the one-child policy may have had a role in the abduction of more than 200,000 Chinese babies each year. 

According to Jackie Sheehan, the possible reasons for the underground child market is two-fold. 

"Families will buy a stolen, trafficked boy and raise him as their own. Some parents who are desperate for a son and who break family-planning rules because of multiple daughters, may end up seeing these daughters sold," she wrote. 

New Policy and Challenges

The two-child policy has been enacted to, according to the party's statement given to the official Xinhua news agency, serve as "as an active response to an aging population." But there's hope that the residual effects will also help the inequality and infanticide issues. However, simply adding another child to the mix doesn't necessarily means behaviors will immediately change. 

A similar reform happened in 2013, in which an only-child parent could apply to have a second child, but only 6.7 percent of those eligible applied. Reuters cites financial issues as a factor. 

The news organization found a tweet from a Chinese social media website that expressed frustration with the policy. 

"I can't even afford to raise one, let alone two," it read. 

Still, the new policy granting all families the option to expand their families is definitely a step in the right direction and one that could save a lot of lives. 

Wang Feng, a leading expert on demographic and social change in China, told Reuters that the change, though long overdue, won't help the generational imbalance, but at least it will take a little of the stress out of having children. 

"It won't have any impact on the issue of the aging society," said Wang, "but it will change the character of many young families."

Cover Image: Kevin Frayer / Getty Images