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The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Global Health Research Institute

One Couple, Two Children - Professor Sabu Padmadas on China's new family policy

Published: 6 May 2016
2 children
Will China's new policy work in the way that it was envisaged?





Professor Sabu Padmadas


From March 2016 China brought in its new two-child policy of ‘one couple, two children’’. This overturning of its previous 'one-child' policy was hailed as a step forward for the reproductive rights of the Chinese population. A commentary article just published in Annals of Human Biology by Sabu Padmadas describes the legacy of China's one-child policy as including an ageing population, male-dominant sex ratios and impingement on reproductive rights. He questions whether the policy was effective in reducing population numbers or if the fertility transition, which had already taken place during the 1970’s, would have in any event resulted in a declining population.

 Professor Padmadas highlights the way that the attitudes of present-day Chinese women and family systems are very different to those prevalent in 1979 and present a more complex context for the new two-child policy. He is doubtful that the two-child policy will bring about meaningful changes to population numbers.

Young people, he points out, are increasingly opting for cohabitation and delaying marriage, prioritising career and personal development over family obligations. Most young people, especially unmarried, prefer to have one child and in some cases want no children at all. Contraceptive options are no longer restricted to IUD or sterilisation and condom use has risen substantially among younger cohorts of Chinese couples. There is even a tendency among the future generation to follow a later, longer and fewer reproduction strategy. Younger generations are also conscious of the looming demographic and economic crises and most of them will see their parents living to 80 or even beyond 100.



It is almost certain that the two-child policy is not liberal in terms of basic human rights and reproductive rights

Sabu Padmadas - Professor of Demography and Global Health, UNiversity of Southampton
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