After decades of the one-child policy that has been enforced, China officially announced on November 15 that they are raising the policy. In addition to lifting the program, China also is abolishing labor camps in the attempt to improve human rights among citizens.
What affects will this have on China’s increasing rate of poverty?
Recent statistics indicate that 128 million Chinese were considered to be living below the poverty line, or roughly 13.4% of the population. Of the entire populace, 12% live in a state of extreme poverty.
The one-child policy was instituted in the 1970s in an effort to cap the rapidly growing population. Prior to this, the need for laborers overshadowed the rate of production. Regardless of those who praised the policy for reducing population growth, it gained much criticism.
Often, women were forced to have abortions or pay substantial fines for having more than one child. Considering those who could not afford contraception in the first place were generally the ones becoming pregnant, the fines also played a role in contributing to the poverty of China.
In addition to the immediate family, the policy also laid burdens on China’s elderly. These individuals rely on their children for support once they can no longer work. With limited family members, those who bring in income are hampered with having to support themselves as well as their families and parents – often times on one income.
In the 1950s, China instituted “re-education through labor” systems, modeled after the gulag labor camps used by the Soviet Union. Here, tens of thousands of individuals are incarcerated, without the possibility of trial.
Over 160,000 individuals were held in 350 re-education through labor camps throughout all of China at the end of 2008, according to the Ministry of Justice. In contrast, the United Nations estimated the number of prisoners to be as great as 190,000.
These labor camps are believed to be the cause of millions of deaths. Harsh conditions, being overworked, and prisoners committing suicide are all contributing factors. In order to reduce the number of individuals held in these camps, China is aiming to reform their entire legal system.
By reformatting which crimes are subject to the death penalty, China will be able to control the number of those held in the labor camps.
The effects of the abolishment of the one-child policy could go either way. Some economists worry that it will only increase the population, creating a deeper span of poverty than what already exists. Optimists, however, predict that this may be just what Chinese citizens need in order to stimulate the regrowth of their economy.