China’s One-Child Family Policy by Elisabeth Croll, Delia Davin, Penny Kane (eds.)

By Elisabeth Croll, Delia Davin, Penny Kane (eds.)

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Example text

The sex ratios too became much more normal which suggests that infanticide was no longer widely practised. China had entered a well-recognised phase of the demographic transition in which a decline in the mortality rate had not yet been matched by a decline in fertility rates. In the new stability and security of times in the 1950s, children not only constituted a source of personal pleasure, but were also a symbol of the new-found wealth and status. All these demographic factors which contributed to the expansion of family size by both encouraging the number of births within each generation and expanding the number of generations which could potentially reside under one roof were reinforced by the new economic policies of the mid-1950s which directly encouraged an expansion in peasant family size.

Simultaneously the demand for female labour outside the home increased and widespread schooling occupied the children. Infant mortality dropped significantly, the costs of raising children increased and the competition for scarce educational and health and material resources encouraged parents to invest in fewer rather than more children. Most importantly, secure incomes and the introduction of a pension system plus the establishment of community services meant that adults were less reliant on the younger generation in the provision of basic needs.

The whole thing is voluntary. 27 What was recognised throughout these two decades was that family planning in the interests of spacing and limiting unwanted births was a private family matter in which the individual couples themselves took decisions according to their own personal circumstances and wishes. There was no national population plan or new dominant model of family size and structure to substitute for the larger joint family ideal, and in the absence of a new model, the older joint family remained the ideal structure.

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