China’s change to its one child policy has rightly hit world news. Previously a couple who were both single children could have two babies, now if only one of the parents is a single child they can have two children. It might not sound much but it probably means that most couples can now have two children – a change that affects at least one cousin and a sister-in-law here.
But will it change much? The cost of raising a child here are very high and everyone wants the very best for their child: “better to have the very best for one than quite good for two.” It seems likely that in the immediate term China will still experience sub-replacement level birth rates leading to an ageing population and economic stagnation (which in turn will increase pressure on society as a whole as discontentedness grows).
However, it will be interesting to see what happens in 9 months time…. This article suggests that 1-2 million extra births could occur in the next couple years per year (on top of an average of 16 million births). My hunch would be that there could be more: the media has been talking freely about the change in the law and that is likely to get people thinking about a second child in a way they had never done so before, and anyone thinking about a second child will have little reason to wait (it’s the year of the horse next year [a good one] followed by the year of the lamb [a bad year]). A surge in births in any given year will put huge strains on the hospitals (as the year of the dragon did this time last year) and, in turn, on the education system. So in 2018 and 2020 there could be a huge influx of people into primary schools with parents finding it very difficult to find decent places for their child. Hopefully by that time enough Christians will be clear on their responsibility to raise their own children in a godly way, and churches will be keen to support parents to do that. Who knows, a system unable to cope with an influx of children may be just the thing needed to get Christian education going strongly in China.