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Professor Peter Lloyd-Sherlock comments on China's new two child policy

China is abolishing its one-child policy after 30 years, announcing it will now allow couples to have two children. Huffpost live takes a look at how the policy affected China's demographics and how a modest population increase could impact the country.
DEV's Professor Peter Lloyd-Sherlock comments on the new policy alongside:
  • Susan Greenhalgh (Cambridge, MA). Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University; Author of 'Just One Child: Science and Policy in Deng’s China'
  • Rod Wye (London, United Kingdom). Associate Fellow, Chatham House's Asia Programme
  • Sophie Richardson (Washington, DC). China Director, Human Rights Watch

You can watch the discussion video here:


Professor Peter Lloyd-Sherlock is professor of social policy and international development at UEA. His main area of research looks at social protection, health and the wellbeing of older people. He says that China's one-child policy is already a thing of the past, and that the key question is how China will support its large ageing population. 

"The news that China is to end its notorious one-child policy hardly comes out of the blue," he said. "In reality, the policy has been phasing out over the past 15 years, with a reduction of sanctions in many parts of the country.

"The one-child policy has attracted considerable criticism in terms of its effects on human rights. This fits neatly into a wider western critique of China’s human rights record. Defenders of the policy point out that, without such an authoritarian intervention, China’s population would be substantially higher than it currently is.

"It is unlikely that reductions in poverty and improvements in human development would have been so notable if population growth had remained rapid. Then again, academics point out that China’s rapid fall in fertility rates since the 1970s was not entirely due to this policy.

"Other countries, such as Brazil, also achieved a substantial reduction in fertility without any direct state intervention. It is sometimes said that ‘development is the best contraceptive’ – improved education for women, urbanisation and other changes have had a major impact on population growth around the world, irrespective of official population policies.

"How much difference the one-child policy made within this wider context of development and change is open to debate.

"The consequences of the policy are less open to debate. Among other things, these include a skewed sex ratio, with larger numbers of men than women, due to selective abortion.

"Even more significantly, they include large numbers of older people with few if any children to support them in later life.

"China is ageing fast, but formal services for long-term care are very limited and most older people in rural areas do not receive a pension. As a result, families (read ‘children’) remain by far the most important form of support for older people.

"The Chinese government is developing policies to meet this new challenge, but the scale and pace of the change are immense. As such, the key issue at the Central Committee Summit is what is being done about this new challenge, rather than formal recognition that the one-child policy is already a thing of the past."