Will New Government Reform One-Child Policy?

While demographers claim that the reorganization of China’s Population and Family Planning Commission will not change the controversial one-child policy, Caijing reports that the new government is expected to amend the law:

Caijing learned it is likely the new government will gradually implement a policy over the next few years in which couples are allowed to have two children if either spouse is an only child. The nation has already implemented a countrywide two-child policy in which couples can have two children if both spouses are only children.

An official from the National Population and Family Planning Commission who asked not to be named said the most likely scenario after the government restarts population policy adjustment will be for the newly-established national health and family planning commission to come up with an adjustment proposal. Upon approval by the State Council, the proposal will be voluntarily implemented step-by-step in various provinces. Due to concerns about population imbalances in rural areas, policy adjustments will focus first on areas with lower population pressure. Meanwhile, it is likely that the adjustment policy will be implemented last in mega cities like Beijing and Shanghai due to the immense population resources pressure in these areas as well as local authorities’ cautious approach towards population growth.

Bloomberg Businessweek’s Christina Larson writes that talk of reform is gaining momentum in Beijing even if official comments remain:

When asked point-blank what to expect next, the deputy head of China’s State Commission Office for Public Sector Reform told reporters not to anticipate immediate policy changes. Yet as Wang Feng, a sociologist and demography expert at the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy in Beijing, points out in an e-mail interview, that rhetoric may be “purely political.” “The government wants to change but does not want to see total chaos,” he writes. “Insisting no change in policy [is forthcoming] is just lip service for now.”

Wang, however, believes change won’t be long in coming. “As much as the government would like to see a gradual process, the collapse of the policy will be swift,” he predicts. “This is so largely for two reasons: People in the bureaucratic organization of implementing the one-child policy all can see the writing on the wall and have to worry about their career and future, and the cost of implementing any transitional measure [such as the costs of tracking, identifying, and exempting more couples from the policy] would be prohibitive if not impossible with China’s migrating population and the unpopularity of the policy.”

See more on the one-child policy and China’s demographics via CDT.