Editor’s note for Monday, November 23, 2020

editor's note for Access newsletter

My thoughts today:

“It’s not that there are too many old people, it’s just those damn young people aren’t having enough babies” is more or less how one researcher described the problem of China’s rapidly aging population in a Xinhua article (in Chinese) published today: “The core of China’s aging problem is not the increase in the number of elderly people, but the absolute decrease in the number of the working-age population.”

The researcher was one of many experts cited in many state media articles today that discussed problems with China’s current family planning policies and hinted at changes to come intended to avoid the demographic time bomb of the country getting old before it gets rich.

The relaxation of the one child policy on January 1, 2016 has not had the intended effect: The number of live births per 1,000 people in China dropped to a record low of 10.48 in 2019, down from 10.94 in 2018.

To change this, “China’s family planning policy is expected to be further relaxed over the next five years and beyond, with extensive social and economic support” to encourage people to have children, reports the China Daily. The Legal Daily, as cited by Reuters, said that previous “policies aimed at suppressing population growth must be replaced by a system designed to boost fertility.”

It’s worth noting that the one child policy was not scrapped, but became a two child policy. The relaxation was not accompanied by a program to ease the financial burdens of healthcare and education for children, promote maternity and paternity leave, or provide other incentives for young couples to have even one child let alone two.

One of the large obstacles to China completely getting rid of restrictions on how many babies its citizens can have is the large bureaucracy created to implement the one child policy, and all the people it employs. If government planners can figure out a way to turn that bureaucracy’s mission around 180 degrees, perhaps the government can kickstart a new baby boom. But it probably won’t be good for women.

Upcoming events:

Our word of the day is Antony Blinken (安东尼·布林肯 āndōngní bùlínkěn).

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief