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2015年11月 2日 (月)

(社説)中国一人っ子 出産規制全廃すべきだ

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 31
EDITORIAL: China should eliminate all restrictions on childbirths
(社説)中国一人っ子 出産規制全廃すべきだ

Decisions concerning childbirth should be left to individuals exercising their free will.

China should discontinue its distorted policy of forcefully restricting the number of children a family can have.

The Chinese government has decided to ease its strict “one-child” policy that limits the number of children in a family.

The decision is part of the Communist Party’s 13th Five-Year Plan, which sets economic policy priorities for the five years beginning in 2016. The economic plan was worked out in the recent Fifth Plenary Session of the party’s Central Committee.

In most countries, the government’s role in family planning is limited to educational and awareness campaigns at most.

China’s one-child policy, which has been in place since 1979, was originally a response to concerns about food shortages. But this drastic population control policy has been internationally criticized because it has involved serious human rights violations, including forced abortions.

In a 2013 move to ease the restrictions, the government allowed couples, where at least one parent was an only child, to have a second child. Beijing has now decided to allow all couples to have two children.

This is a step forward, but the system of regulatory birth control will remain in place. China should scrap this system altogether.

The government of President Xi Jinping, who has been pursuing a policy agenda focused on expansion of national power, probably decided on the policy change out of concerns about the consequences of tight population control. The Xi administration is facing the tough challenge of how to deal with serious problems caused by the country’s declining working population and the aging of society, such as slowing economic growth and a growing social security burden.

From this point of view, the decision has come too late.

A country’s demographic future can be predicted with considerable accuracy.

In China, where birthrates have fallen to extremely low levels due to the one-child policy, there have long been concerns that the effects of the aging population will start hurting the nation’s economic performance before its people become wealthy.
Due to this alarming prospect, there have been strong calls for the abolition of the controversial policy in China.

Why has the Chinese government been so slow to change the policy? One possible explanation is that a firmly entrenched system to regulate childbirths supported by a vast number of officials in central and local governments has led to vested interests.

It has been reported that fines imposed on couples who have violated the rules have been a source of revenue for local governments.

This is a structural problem deep-rooted in the country’s administrative and fiscal systems.

Easing the restrictions now may not produce much economic effect. In large Chinese cities, where the number of newborns has already declined as significantly as it has in Japan, the step to relax the policy in 2013 has only led to a marginal rise in births.

Even if the number of babies increases significantly, it will be more than 10 years down the road before they can join the nation’s work force.

The new Five-Year Plan also calls for promoting migration from rural areas to cities as a way to increase the working population.

This policy measure alone is related to a wide range of issues, including land problems in farming villages and the necessity to expand the social security and education systems for urban residents.

In addition to the demographic shift, China is now simultaneously facing almost all the various challenges Japan had to grapple with over the period of its fast economic growth from the late 1950s through early 1970s, including widespread environmental pollution.

The goal of the Xi administration’s domestic reform agenda should be to build a future where the country’s 1.3 billion people and children who will be born in the coming years can live with a sense of security.


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