The BBC reported today that China is ending its one-child policy, providing the following overview:
Introduced in 1979, the policy meant that many Chinese citizens – around a third, China claimed in 2007 – could not have a second child without incurring a fine
In rural areas, families were allowed to have two children if the first was a girl
Other exceptions included ethnic minorities and – since 2013 – couples where at least one was a single child
Campaigners say the policy led to forced abortions, female infanticide, and the under-reporting of female births
It was also implicated as a cause of China’s gender imbalance
Before everyone celebrates, China did not, however, eliminate all limits but changed the limit to two children. Certainly this is a huge improvement and a step in the right direction, but it is not without its own economic, ethical, and political problems. (more…)
China’s brutal one-child policy means that men far outnumber women in China. Men can’t find brides, and that leaves the door open for human-trafficking.
Adam Minter reports that some men in China are willing (and able) to pay upwards of $64,000 to woo a woman into marriage. For those that can’t that, they can turn to marriage brokers. Unfortunately, many of these marriage brokers are human traffickers. (more…)
The U.N. is very pro-young people. Youth are capable of great things. Our world needs their intelligence, their spirit, their intelligence, their innovation. The report is full of photos of beautiful and vibrant young people from around the world.
But let’s not get carried away. The U.N. doesn’t love them that much. (more…)
Emma Watson, the lovely British actress best known for her role as Hermione in the Harry Potter movies, is now a Goodwill ambassador for the United Nations. The program she is touting is called HeForShe (yes, I know that sounds like a support group for transgendered folk, but that’s beside the point.) It is, according to the website, a “solidarity movement for gender equality.” Basically, they want men (the “He”) to start supporting women’s (the “She”) equality.
There are certainly many places in the world where women face incredible challenges. Far too many women and girls lack basic access to voting, education, the free ability to travel on their own and to own property. These injustices clearly need to be addressed.
Today marks the 34th anniversary of China’s horrific one-child policy. It is hard to think of any other single policy that has claimed the lives of so many women, both born and unborn, and affected a nation in such a detrimental way. According to Women’s Rights Without Frontiers the Chinese government:
The One Child Policy causes more violence against women and girls than any other official policy on earth.
The One Child Policy is China’s war on women. Any discussion of women’s rights, or human rights, would be a charade if forced abortion in China is not front and center.
Girls are being abandoned: at train stations, at “baby hatches,” at orphanages, or simply left on the street. If the girl is sick, her chances of getting abandoned climb. Simply being female is a risk. A girl in China is twice as likely as a boy to die in the first year of life; if she makes it past her first birthday, her chance of dying triples.
One girl, 14-year-old Chen Shuzhen of the Hubei Province was abandoned after testing positive for leukemia.
Chen says she understands why her mother abandoned her, but hopes that once she dies her corneas can be used to help another child. (more…)
Today, October 11, has been declared the International Day of the Girl Child by the United Nations. According to the Day of the Girl Campaign located in Washington, DC, this day “serves to recognize girls as a population that faces difficult challenges, including gender violence, early marriage, child labor, and discrimination at work” for females under 18. Admirably, this day seeks to draw attention to global issues such as the high drop-out rate of girls from school, child marriage, and human trafficking.
One organization, Plan International, is simultaneously launching their “Because I am a girl” campaign. Their goal for this campaign is to reach 4 million girls: “improving their lives with access to school, skills, livelihoods and protection. We will also achieve these improvements through better family and community support and access to services for girls.” For Plan International, these services include sex education at the primary school level, contraceptives, and “population growth” education.
There is a paradox in these pro-girl campaigns. While the support of girls’ education and the call to end child marriages are admirable, much of the developing world is suffering from a “daughter deficit” – a noticeable lack of girls in their societies. The United Nations notes that there are an estimated 200 million females “missing” in the world today due to abortion and post-birth infanticide. These pro-girl campaigns are missing a lot of participants.
China, with its harshly imposed one-child policy, accounts for many missing girls. For cultural reasons, the Chinese typically want that one child to be male. Women in other cultures are de-valued; they cost a family money, rather than bringing in money. Sex-selection abortions are routine in India, while at the same time rural, poorly-educated Indian women are used as surrogates – essentially renting out their wombs – for high-paying Western “consumers” who want babies.
This gendercide is poignantly portrayed in the documentary “It’s a Girl”. The film’s website notes that those words – “it’s a girl” – are the three deadliest words in the world today.
As the trailer points out, there is systematic machinery in the world that seeks to eliminate girls. But let’s be clear: this is not a machine that is out-of-control. In fact, it is very much controlled – by humans who make choices. There are those who offer sex-selection tests so that abortions on baby girls can be completed as soon as possible. There are those who choose to conduct those abortions. There are those who traffic in unwanted baby girls, selling them on the black market to people desperate to adopt or to human traffickers.
It is right to celebrate the lives of girls. It is right to want all young ladies to be educated, healthy, cared for and treated well from the moment of conception to natural death. That’s not our world, though. Not yet. Celebrating a day for girls is a good thing, but a better thing is recognizing how pitiful it is to celebrate them on one day, and routinely abort them every day. We know these “missing girls” could grow up to be mothers, educators, inventors, business women, health-care professionals, speakers – leaders of families, villages, societies. The best thing we can do is to not simply celebrate girls, but change hearts and minds about the value of girls in every part of the world. That would be something to celebrate.
Take at look at Jonathan Last’s very good piece in the Weekly Standard about the real population problem that is confronting the world–people aren’t having enough babies. In America’s One Child Policy, Last explains how fertility throughout the entire world is declining and what the impact will be on society and the economy.
During the last 50 years, fertility rates have fallen all over the world. From Africa to Asia, South America to Eastern Europe, from Third World jungles to the wealthy desert petro-kingdoms, every country in every region is experiencing declines in fertility. In 1979, the world’s fertility rate was 6.0; today it’s 2.6. Industrialized nations have been the hardest hit. America’s 2.06 is one of the highest fertility rates in the First World. Only Israel (2.75) and New Zealand (2.10) are more fertile.
Mr. Last addresses a host of reasons for declining fertility, including some of the politically delicate reasons like education, abortion, and egalitarian social policies that many don’t want to address.
He explains how the one-child policy in China and other small-family campaigns in places like Singapore and Japan have not created the promised “bright future” but serious demographic challenges. And new government policies to reverse the trends are not working.
The Japanese government has been trying to stoke fertility since the early 1970s. In 1972, when Japan’s fertility rate was still above replacement, the government introduced a monthly per-child subsidy for parents….In the face of 35 years of failed incentives, Japan’s fertility rate stands at 1.2. This is below what is considered “lowest low,” a mathematical tipping point at which a country’s population will decline by as much as 50 percent within 45 years. This is a death spiral from which, demographers believe, it is impossible to escape. Then again, that’s just theory: History has never seen fertility rates so low.
As Last and others have reminded us, no country with declining population has ever created widespread prosperity. Perhaps we would do well to remember that the factors of production include not just land and capital, but labor–and labor means people. Decline in fertility will have serious social and economic consequences. Last writes:
At the same time, the average age in China will rise dramatically. In 2005, China’s median age was 32. By 2050, it will be 45, and a quarter of the Chinese population will be over the age of 65. The government’s pension system is almost nonexistent, and One-Child has eliminated the traditional support system of the extended family—most people no longer have brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, or nephews. It is unclear what sort of havoc this atomization will wreak on their society. China will have 330 million senior citizens with no one to care for them and no way to pay for their upkeep. It is, Eberstadt observed, “a slow-motion humanitarian tragedy already underway.”
By 2050, the age structure in China will be such that there are only 1.6 workers—today the country has 5.4—to support each retiree. The government will be forced to either: (1) substantially cut spending (in areas such as defense and public works) in order to shift resources to care for the elderly or (2) impose radically higher tax burdens on younger workers. The first option risks China’s international and military ambitions; the second risks revolution.
Though people still promote Malthusian nightmares of over-crowded planets the real demographic disaster not over-population, but the opposite–not enough babies. This decline in fertility is a prime example of why incentives matter–summed up well in Henry Hazlitt’s definition of economics:
“The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the long effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of the policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”
Acton’s Rome office will be hosting a conference on health care and aging on December 2 at the Lateran Pontifical University in Rome. Get more information here