For more than thirty years, China’s One Child Policy has done much to limit the country’s population growth.

In recent years, there have been sensational news stories of women forced to end their pregnancies early to comply with China’s One Child Policy.

Here are ten essential facts about China’s One Child Policy:

  • China’s One Child Policy was created in 1979 by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping to temporarily limit communist China’s population growth. It has thus been in place for more than 32 years.
  • China’s One Child Policy most strictly applies to Han Chinese living in urban areas of the country. It does not apply to ethnic minorities throughout the country. Han Chinese represent more than 91% of the Chinese population. Just over 51% of China’s population lives in urban areas. In rural areas, Han Chinese families can apply to have a second child if the first child is a girl.

  • One major exception to the One Child Policy allows two singleton children (the only offspring of their parents) to marry and have two children. Additionally, if a first child is born with birth defects or major health problems, the couple is usually permitted to have a second child.
  • When the One Child Policy was adopted in 1979, China’s population was about 972 million people. In 2012 the population of China is about 1.343 billion people, 138% growth over that time period. By contrast, India’s population in 1979 was 671 million and in 2012 India’s population is 1.205 billion people, which is 180% over the 1979 population. By most estimates, India will surpass China as the world’s most populous country by 2027 or earlier, when both countries’ population is expected to reach about 1.4 billion.

  • If China continues its One Child Policy in the decades to come, it will actually see its population decrease. China is expected to peak in population around 2030 with 1.46 billion people and then begin falling to 1.3 billion by 2050.
  • With the One Child Policy in place, China is expected to achieve zero population growth by 2025. By 2050, China’s population growth rate will be -0.5%.
  • China’s sex ratio at birth is more imbalanced than the global average. There are about 113 boys born in China for every 100 girls. While some of this ratio might be biological (the global population ratio is currently about 107 boys born for every 100 girls), there is evidence of sex-selective abortion, neglect, abandonment, and even infanticide of infant females.
  • For families who observe the One Child Policy, there are rewards: higher wages, better schooling and employment, and preferential treatment in obtaining governmental assistance and loans. For families who violate the One Child Policy, there are sanctions: fines, employment termination, and difficulty in obtaining governmental assistance.

  • Families who are permitted to have a second child usually have to wait from three to four years after the birth of the first child before conceiving their second child.
  •  The recent peak total fertility rate for Chinese women was in the late 1960s, when it was 5.91 in 1966 and 1967. When the One Child Policy was first imposed, the total fertility rate of Chinese women was 2.91 in 1978. In 2012, the total fertility rate had dropped to 1.55 children per woman, well below the replacement value of 2.1. (Immigration accounts for the remainder of the Chinese population growth rate.)


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