China embarked on a national campaign of family planning in the 1970s after concerns regarding the carrying capacity of its national resources. By 1980, a policy that encouraged families to have only one child was in place along with contraceptive measures and penalties for noncompliance. Some aspects of these policies cut against the idea that reproductive choices should be made freely. Nonetheless, the policies, along with economic development, appear to have resulted in the desired reduction in the growth rate of the Chinese population.
What was perhaps less foreseen, as these polices were adopted, was the influence that declining fertility would have on the demographic structure of a Chinese society. Like many other countries, China is facing problems of a rapidly aging society. The implications are familiar: A disadvantageous ratio of the young to the old and a possible decline over time in size of the labor force.
In this Point/Counterpoint from the Spring 2013 Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Yijia Jing and Xizhe Peng discuss China's family planning policy and what the future holds.