Sunday, October 07, 2012

Unintended consequences . . .

THE ONE-CHILD policy of the Chinese government is 34 years old, and according to George Dvorsky's article on io9, "The Unintended Consequences Of China’s One-child Policy", the problems have multiplied as the country's citizens have lived with the legislation. And the problems will be continuing, as the Party is adamant that the one-child policy continue, so that by 2050, there may be big changes indeed.

Writing in her book, Unnatural Selection, Mara Hvistendahl notes that, in a natural state, there are 105 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, however, the male number has crept up to 121 — and as high as 150 in some districts.
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In China, this practice has now resulted in a "surplus" of men who have little hope of marrying. Hvistendahl notes that these men tend to accumulate in the lower classes where the risk of violence is accentuated. Moreover, unmarried men who have low incomes tend to get restless — and in fact, areas with skewed gender balances tend to experience higher rates of crime.

And because it's harder to find a wife, men are having to literally buy or bid for them. This has contributed to China's elevated household savings rate where parents are having to squirrel away money in order to secure a bride for their son. It has also led to a boom in the mail order bride business — and prostitution.

And as a recent analysis by Wei Xing Zhu has shown, the imbalance is expected to worsen in the coming decades; the biggest gaps currently exist between the one to four-year old group — which means they'll be the ones having to deal with the fallout in about in 15 to 20 years.

The hits just keep on coming. Why? Because of this, China's population growth is falling, as intended, back in 1978. But today, China has a market economy, of sorts — and market capitalism requires market growth, and there are only so many Wal-Mart lumpen in North America.

A declining population means fewer productive workers (if not consumers). Some fear that the Chinese labor force has hit its peak and will start to decline in just a few years.

Then there's the effect of the only-child on the psychological aspects of inter-personal relations and expectations from society.

In essence, China has created an entire generation of exclusively first born children — this could be dramatically reducing the diversity of personality types in that country.

Time moves slowly; it can take decades for effects to show. For example, the sky-rocketing cost of college/university education in the last 30 years (unless you live in Québec) in North America has created an indentured legion of twenty-somethings entering the work force with crippling debt and a working environment gamed by the 1% to keep them in poverty. OWS? Duh.


Anonymous said...

The mess known as China doesn't surprise me really. I see it as a natural consequence of too much government interference in the lives of its citizens.

Karl K. said...

It's interesting that in Taiwan, the former "legitimate government of China," which is now a democracy, Zero population growth has been achieved, and greatly exceeded to the point where they now have the lowest birth rate in the world. According to an article in Time, an average of only 1.0 children per coupe are born to couples. The reasons given were higher education, marrying later in life, and caution over having children where there is a high cost of living.

Unfortunately, the lowered, younger population will soon have a negative impact on the economy. There will be lower sales of child oriented goods and services, teachers will be laid off, and many schools and colleges will be closed.,8599,1945937,00.html

Purple library guy said...

These criticisms are all very fine, but what should China have done? Kept growing the population? Do you have any idea the level of environmental destruction their existing population pressure has been causing, or the economic consequences they're already starting to feel because of it? For instance, they have huge swaths of farmland coming off line due to combinations of industrial pollution, soil erosion, and running out of fossil water.

I really don't see the constant refrain of "but market economies can't grow without population growth" being as important as such brute realities. Japan's population is shrinking and its population is way older than, say, ours, but despite never having really recovered from their own real estate bubble bursting 20 years ago, their actual standard of living remains pretty good.