Despite changes to one-child policy, Chinese parents say having two kids is too expensive

06.12.2013 20:21

BEIJING – Despite China announcing
changes to its strict one-child policy,
many young parents say they will not
choose to have a second child due to
the high cost of living in modern-day
“Giving birth to a second child is not
difficult, but we do not have the
energy anymore,” said Wang Tao, a 35-
year-old native of Beijing, who is
married and has a 5-year-old
“We lack a safe social net to support a
family with two children,” Wang added.
“China doesn't provide a pension or
free education,” he said while ticking
off a list of things that make having a
larger family a financial burden.
After more than 30 years of the strict
policy aimed at controlling population
growth, the new policy will allow
couples to have two children if one of
them is an only child.
But Wang is not alone in his views,
according to a survey conducted by
the Communist Party controlled
“People’s Daily” newspaper.
Among people who qualify under the
new law to have a second child, only
half wanted to, according to the
survey. The high cost of living was
cited as the main reason for preferring
not to have a second.
Yin San, a 36-year-old working at an
international company said she wants
to have a second child but that
Chinese societal conditions are holding
her back.
A woman holds her newborn twins i
hospital in Changsha in south China'
Hunan province on Nov. 16, 2013. Th
government recently announced the
easing of the country's strict one-ch
policy in three decades.
She is an only child and she does not
want her 3-year-old daughter to grow
up like her – without a sibling and a
companion. But Yin has concerns
about raising children in China, given
problems like air quality and, in
particular, the Chinese education
“If you are in China, your kids have to
have a Chinese education,” said Yin. “If
they do not, they will not be accepted
by the society.”
But providing that Chinese education
is expensive, something Yin is afraid
she can’t afford if she has two
children. Yin's daughter, YiYi, started
attending Gymboree classes at 8-
months-old. Today, her daughter is
enrolled at a bilingual kindergarten,
and takes a swimming class at an
upscale hotel once a week. Music,
drawing, and ballet classes are also on
the future education list of YiYi – all of
which, of course, cost big bucks.
In order to have a second child, Yin
said she is planning to emigrate to
“If I emigrate before 40, I will have
another child,” said Yin. “If I stay in
China, I will just live with one.”
But to Li Ting, a 29-year-old civil
servant in the Beijing government, the
new policy is great news. Under the
old law, as a civil servant, the only way
Li could have had a second child was
if she quit her job first.
“It’s a relief,” said Li. “I’m not certain I
will have another one, but this policy
gives us an option.”
Li is from a village in Hebei province,
near Beijing. She has two younger
brothers, which was allowed at the
time by the local government. But
since her husband is an only child, the
couple is qualified to have a second
child under the new rules.
Li got married this year and is hoping
to have her first child soon, but she
says her husband wants to have a
second child more than she does.
“He was quite lonely,” said Li. “My
brothers and I are different. We grew
up in the same environment. This kind
of relationship is very different from
any other friendships.”
The one-child policy was initially
introduced in the late 1970s to control
population growth by limiting most
urban couples to one child and most
rural couples to two children if their
first child was a girl.
China’s one-child policy changes may not
fuel baby boom
Chinese demographers warn that
changes to China's one-child policy
may not lead to a sudden spike in
fertility. CNBC's Eunice Yoon reports
from Beijing.
The Chinese government credits the
one-child policy with preventing
hundreds of millions of births and
lifting countless families out of
But the policy has been highly
controversial and has led to forced
abortions and sterilizations, even
though such measures are illegal. It
has also led to a major gender
imbalance because of illegal abortions
of female fetuses and infanticide of
baby girls by parents who have a
traditional cultural preference for
Demographers have also long argued
that the policy has created a looming
crisis by limiting the size of the young
labor pool that must in turn support
the older generation as they retire.
Many believe the new policy is an
effort by the new government to cope
with the decreasing labor force and
the aging population.
But some experts, like Wang Feng, a
professor of social science at
University of California-Irvine, have
questioned how the new policy would
even be implemented.
“Logistically, it is going to be very
difficult,” said Wang. “Nowadays,
people are mobilized. It’s hard to verify
who is an only child.”
He was referring to the government’s
record keeping being fragmented
across hundreds of local governments
– with no central database where
information can be cross-checked.
The government has not given a
timetable for when the new law will be