Libmonster ID: BY-2416
Author(s) of the publication: M. A. GULEVA


Candidate of Economic Sciences

MGIMO (U) of the Russian Foreign Ministry

Keywords: China, demographic policy, abolition of birth control, education

In October 2015, a historic event took place in China - at the 5th plenum of the CPC Central Committee of the 18th convocation, the main topic of which was the discussion of China's economic and social development plan for 2016-2020, it was decided to cancel the "one-child policy". The government decided to "allow all families to have two children" 1.

How did the Chinese authorities come to this decision, and what was the reason for the cancellation of such strict measures?


In the late 1970s, the Chinese leadership announced the introduction of the "One Family, one child" policy in order to control population growth. Families in cities were allowed to have only one child, and in villages-two, if the first child is a girl. Representatives of national minorities - about 8% of the Chinese population-could have two children per family in the city and three or four if they live in rural areas. However, over time, these policies have led to demographic distortions, such as gender imbalances and an aging population.

As of the end of 2014, the population of China was 1 billion 367 million 820 thousand people. Of the total population, 51.2% are men, 48.8% are women, and about 15.5 % are people over 60 years of age (see figure).2

Since 2003, the proportion of children under the age of 14 has been steadily declining, while the elderly population has been growing steadily over the past three decades. If in 2010 the share of the population of China over 60 years was 12%, then, according to UN estimates, by 2050 it will increase to one-third of the total population of the country.

Gender imbalance is another result of the implementation of birth control policies. Until now, Chinese women prefer to terminate a pregnancy if they find out that the unborn child is a girl. In 2014, there were 118 boys for every 100 girls under the age of 10, and the national average ratio of men and women is 105.1:100, respectively.

In 2013, the authorities relaxed their demographic policy. The second child was allowed to have couples where

Diagram 1. Dynamics of changes in the number of different age groups.

Compiled by: Zhongguo Tongji Nianjian 2015 ("Annual Statistical Compendium 2015"). Tab. 2-4 (electronic version).

page 36

at least one of the spouses is an only child in their family. Since the restrictions were relaxed, about 1.5 million families have applied for permission to have a second child, which falls short of the Government's target of 2 million families per year3.

Now all families will be able to have a second child. The final document adopted at the plenum of the CPC Central Committee states that "policy changes are aimed at balancing the development of the population and solving the problem of aging." 4

The decision made by the Communist Party caused a wide public response. Chinese citizens began to actively discuss the innovation: there were also those who actively supported this decision, but there are still many opponents of such a policy.

The second child will not only bring significant changes to each individual family, but will also have an impact on the development of the entire society as a whole. In such a situation, social institutions such as education, health care and the pension system will have a much greater burden than it was previously.

At present, China is striving to pay more and more attention to the development of the social sphere as a whole. The competitiveness of the state has become largely determined by the competitiveness of the population. In this regard, the development of human capital is considered one of the most important components in the process of further modernization of the Chinese economy. It is safe to say that a change in demographic policy will bring many challenges to the education system and education management in the country.

Educational resources will be under pressure from a growing population, and the first impact will be on preschool and primary education. Over time, the impact of the new policy will become more and more noticeable in the subsequent stages of education.


The modern education system in China is built on the model of Western countries. It includes pre-school education, primary schools, first-and second-level secondary education, and higher education institutions. Over the years of reform, the Chinese Government has made great efforts to reform the old education system. As a result, the number of students has increased rapidly. To date, 95% of the country's districts are covered by compulsory primary education, 99% of school-age children go to school (primary education coverage reaches 99%, secondary education-89%), the number of students in higher education institutions is growing (higher education coverage is 26.7%).5. Nationwide, the proportion of illiterate young and middle-aged people has fallen to 4.6%6.

However, to this day there are many contradictions in the development of education at each of the stages. First of all, these are issues of access to education of various segments of the population, issues of financing and uneven development throughout the country.

In China, a system of compulsory nine-year education (education in primary and secondary schools of the first stage) has been formed, which is officially considered free for all citizens of the PRC. In fact, Chinese families also have to pay for education at these two levels of education. They pay for study allowances, tuition fees, boarding school accommodation in rural areas, and many other ongoing contributions. This makes access to education unequal for different members of Chinese society. More vulnerable groups, such as rural residents and migrants who have come from other regions of the country to work, do not have the opportunity to provide a decent education for their children.

In addition, today in China there are many other imbalances in the development of the educational sector.


Is the modern education system ready for future changes? Consider the situation with the development of the educational sector in China (see Table).

At the levels of preschool and higher education, there is a tendency to increase the number of students and teachers, as well as an increase in the number of educational institutions. Over the past few years, the authorities have begun to pay more attention to the construction of kindergartens and the development of pre-school education, which was almost absent in the general education system of China. The development of higher education and training of new highly qualified personnel has also become a priority.

page 37


Data on the number of students, teaching staff, and the number of educational institutions








Number of gardens (thousand)






Number of caregivers (thousand people)






Number of students (millions)





Primary schools

Number of schools (thousands)






Number of teachers (million people)






Number of students (millions)





First-level secondary schools

Number of schools (thousands)






Number of teachers (million people)






Number of students (millions)





Secondary schools of the second stage

Number of schools (thousands)






Number of teachers (thousand people)






Number of students (millions)





Higher education institutions

Number of universities






Number of teachers (thousand people)






Number of students (million people)





Compiled by: Zhongguo Tongji Nianjian 2015 ("Annual Statistical Compendium 2015"). Tab. 2 - 5, 2 - 6, 2 - 7 (electronic version).

the most important part of the state's economic policy. That is why in the last decade there has been such a rapid rise in indicators in this educational sphere.

However, in primary and secondary schools, on the contrary, there was a decrease in both the number of students and the number of educational institutions. This is partly due to the Government's program of merging and closing small village schools in order to create large, modern county training centers since the early 2000s. An increase in the number of teaching staff at certain stages certainly has a positive effect on the quality of education, but in primary and secondary schools there is still a tendency to increase the number of students per teacher.

The country will need more and more new training centers, and therefore it may have to suspend the policy of "Closing and Merging schools"over the past decade. Otherwise, the number of classes in schools may increase significantly.

The number of students in classes and the ratio of teachers to students are the most important components in the educational process and, as a result, affect the quality of education received.

The Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China has decided that the number of students in primary school classes should not exceed 40-45, and in secondary school-45-50 (see figure 2). In fact, the situation with the number of classes in Chinese schools even now remains quite tense. Large classes (more than 66 people) predominate in urban-type settlements. In addition, large classes with a population of more than 45 people make up a significant proportion in both villages and cities (30.5% and 23.5%, respectively). It is obvious that with the upcoming increase in the birth rate, the problems of lack of educational institutions and the growth of numerous classes will become even more urgent.

The Ministry of Education will have to improve planning for the development of this sector, reform the financing system, make timely decisions, and improve the quality of education.-

page 38

Figure 2. Regional class distribution by student population, 2011

Compiled by: Wo Guo Zhongxiao chaodaban e xianxiang de diaocha (Research on the phenomenon of overcrowded classrooms in primary secondary schools). Beijing, Edition of the Academy of Sciences of the People's Republic of China, 2011, p. 168.

walking out of demographic changes.

In addition to difficulties with the shortage of educational institutions, China also faces the problem of insufficient number of qualified teaching staff. In recent years, the authorities have implemented a number of programs to attract young people to this profession, encourage young professionals to leave for remote regions of the country to work. For example, on the basis of a number of major pedagogical universities, a program of free training of young people with their subsequent employment in various regions of the country was launched.

The main teaching staff in China is relatively young. Male teachers under the age of 45 make up 32.78%, women -44.26%, while teachers over the age of 45 - 15.09% and 7.87%, respectively.

However, there may also be some difficulties. The share of female teachers is quite high and ranges from 45 to 65% of the total teaching staff at the stages of primary and secondary schools, as well as in special educational institutions for children with disabilities. At the stage of preschool education, they represent the main group of teachers (97%). A number of Chinese researchers and representatives of the educational sector have suggested that changes in demographic policy will affect the number of teaching staff, not only because it will require an increase in the number of teachers, but also because many female teachers will also want to have a second child. This will entail the need to provide them with maternity leave, pay appropriate funds and provide replacements in classes for the entire estimated period of absence.


In addition to the organizational issues that may arise in the education system in the near future, there is another side to the question: how ready are citizens themselves for the upcoming social changes?

Over the years of implementing the "One Family, one child" policy, the structure and concept of family in China has undergone significant changes. In the past, China has always been a country where families have traditionally been numerous. This also formed a certain structure of society. Since the start of the new policy, this tradition in China has been significantly damaged, and now the return to families with more than one child can be a difficult transformation for Chinese society. The generation of people who grew up in families where all the attention was paid only to them will have to adapt to the new realities, when now their children will grow up with brothers and sisters, and raising two children is a more difficult task.

Some Chinese researchers suggest that the appearance of a second child in the family will have a positive impact on the upbringing of the younger generation, since the phenomenon of "little emperors"-the only children in families who grow up spoiled and completely unprepared for adult independent life - will finally come to an end.

On the vast Chinese Internet, in social networks and various blogs, many surveys were conducted on whether families with one child are planning to have a second one. 56% of respondents answered,

page 39

that they are not ready for such a step due to economic difficulties, 17% say that it is "very tiring", 9% cannot afford to have another child due to excessive employment at work 7.

A significant part of all available financial resources is spent on raising children in Chinese families. Spending on education alone can reach 2/3 of the family budget. According to a report published in a print publication of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, 490,000 yuan is spent on raising and educating a child from birth to the age of 18. At the same time, almost 90% of the total amount is spent on education at various levels, starting from kindergarten and ending with higher education.8 This includes current tuition fees (about 60% of all expenses), which exist despite the fact that compulsory nine-year education in China is free, expenses for books and stationery (about 10%), additional classes and consultations (20%), and accommodation in boarding schools (about 10%), if we are talking about remote rural areas. The authorities are trying to introduce various preferential programs and provide financial assistance to low-income families, but this problem is still more than urgent across the country9.

Obviously, with such high education costs, not all Chinese citizens are ready to raise a second child. There is an assumption that this is the reason why the middle class is unlikely to go to the birth of another child, while the poorer and, conversely, richer strata of Chinese society are likely to take advantage of this relief in demographic policy: the former - because of the opportunity to get another "working hands" in the family and the second -due to the availability of sufficient financial resources.

It is worth mentioning the attitude of young people themselves to the presence of brothers and sisters, which is also quite ambiguous. For example, according to an opinion poll conducted by the British newspaper Guardian, representatives of the first wave of "only children in the family" were mostly willing to speak out about the appearance of a second child in the family; many of them note that in childhood they lacked brothers and sisters with whom they would have had more fun and easier to grow up together. However, the younger the age of the respondents, the more rapidly their position changes. Children born after 2000 are more likely not to want to give up their "privileged" position in the family to the younger ones. The most popular responses among respondents were: unwillingness to have a brother or sister, because "all the attention of parents will be directed at them", and also that " the second child in the family will greatly interfere with school, you will need to spend a lot of time with him while parents are at work, there will be a lot of noise and confusion from him"10.

* * *

At the moment, China is on the way to modernize its economic development model, which is based on the expansion of the domestic market, as well as the development of human capital. However, now the Chinese leadership will also have to take into account the new problems and challenges that will arise in the education system after the introduction of the new demographic policy. Of course, the future of the country largely depends on how well the authorities approach the reforms in this area.

* As of 23.03.2016, $1 was equal to 6,491 yuan (editor's note).

1 Zhonggong di shiba jie zhongyang weiyuanghui di wu ci quanti huyi baogao (quan wen) (Full text of the report of the 5th Plenum of the CPC Central Committee of the 18th convocation) / / Xinhua News Agency. 29.10.2015 - - 10/29/content_36929260.htm

2 Zhongguo tongji nianjian 2015 (Annual Statistical Compendium 2015). Tab. 2-1 (electronic version).

3 The number of newborns in the country has been increasing in recent years. Since 2011, it has been gradually growing from 221 million 116 thousand to 225 million 580 thousand people. According to experts, the surge in the birth rate in China can last from 5 to 8 years.

4 Zhonggong di shiba jie zhongyang weiyuanghui di wu ci quanti huyi baogao (quan wen)...

5 Education Statistics (World Bank), июнь 2014.

6 Zhongguo tongji nianjian 2014 (Annual Statistical Compendium 2014). Tab. 2-14 (electronic version).

7 Quanmian ertai zhengce dui jiaoyu yu he yingxiang (What is the impact of the "second child" policy on education?) / / Portal -

8 Haizi de jinji chengbeng: zhong xing qi de jiegou bianhua he yuhua (Economic cost of children: turning to structural changes and improvements) / /

9 Nongcun jiating zhichu (Analysis of education costs for rural families), 2013.

10 China ends one-child policy after 35 years // The Guardian, 29.10.2015.


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