China introduced the one-child policy in 1979 in an attempt to control its burgeoning population. The policy has led to forced sterilization and even late-term abortions. A recent case involved Feng Jianmei who was forced to abort when she was seven months pregnant because she and her husband could not pay the fine for breaking the country's strict birth control policy.
Singapore also implemented population control measures in the early 1980s with its stop-at-two policy. Hefty fines were imposed on couples having more than two children. Other disincentives included no paid maternity leave for third and subsequent children, progressively higher delivery charges for each additional birth, and income tax relief only for the first two children.
|Based on CIA World Factbook|
Now more than three decades later, these countries are facing the dire consequences of their demographic engineering. In Singapore, the government is grappling with problems brought on by years of declining birth rate. It has relaxed its stop-at-two policy, and is offering a host of attractive incentives for large families. So far attempts to raise the birth rate have met with limited success. The birthrate continues to remain low at just over 1 per cent.
What implications does this demographic tweaking have on parents affected by such policies?
According to the Tsinghua Center for Public Policy in Beijing, China already had 14 percent fewer people in their 20s compared with a decade ago. In the next 20 years, their numbers will dwindle an additional 17 percent, while the share of China’s population that is 65 and older is projected to double to 16 percent. By 2050, nearly one in four Chinese will be elderly, according to United Nations projections.
In Singapore as in China, a low birth rate translates into a smaller labour force, which in turn, affects national economic growth. In fact, the labour force has started to shrink. The country has been importing foreign labour on an unprecedented scale, much to the consternation of the local citizens. One only has to take a ride on the MRT to notice that foreigners now outnumber Singaporeans, at least on the trains.
In both countries, the 1-2 child culture is so ingrained in the Chinese populace that it is an uphill struggle for the government to encourage couples to have more children.