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Authored by: Sanjali Shukla (Student, University of Lucknow).

China recently allowed married couples to have three children to counter its ageing problem and to tackle a major demographic shift.[1] According to the Chinese government, there would be “supportive measures, which will be conducive to improving our country’s population structure”, but there exists a dark side of this policy that has a serious concern in the lives of women in general.

When China brought its one-child policy in 1979[2] to boost its economy and raise the living standards of people, there had been so much chaos from girls getting abandoned, sent to orphanages, sex-selective abortions to parents being penalized and sent to jails, fired from the workplace resulting in gender-imbalance throughout the country. According to the data posted in health ministry website,[3] there had been 336 million abortions after the implementation of the one-child policy, which shows the harsh reality about the orthodox and patriarchal society which exists in China. When China realized the steep decline in birth rates and gender differences, it allowed couples to have two children. This move came in 2015,[4] but it was shocking to see that only a few couples (5-6 %) opted for the second child and the major population was not ready for two children; the reasons were obvious that the rising costs are too high, life is already hard there with so much work pressure, and they have the habit of a small family. They would rather spend their earnings on one child instead of dividing them between two.

When the government saw that still there is a birth decline, they ran propaganda that women should “spent their time in homes”, “care for their family” so that women will leave their jobs and stay at home. For example, there was an article published by Xinhua news agency in 2016[5] which said “the two-child policy would allow more working women to “return to their families”. Many of these women are educated, and thus “better understand their role in the family.” In another state-run news agency Youth Daily,[6] the head of a major university’s department of social work said “Because mothers have a natural maternal instinct, they are better suited to taking care of children at home.”

But it failed and, now it’s 2021, China is suffering from an ageing problem, demographic change, gender gap, and under-utilization of its resources. According to the census,[7] 12 million babies were born in 2020 as compared to 18 million in 2016 lowest since 1960.  Now, China scrapped its two-child policy and brought a three-child policy, still, it is a violation of women’s sexual and reproductive rights. This policy will impact the women of China and, they are not happy with it.

Now we will look at the consequences of this policy and why women are not welcoming it. Firstly, there is so much job discrimination in the workplace. Women are still penalized for their maternity choices, they have to face interviews with questions about their marital status, reproductive health, and pregnancies, there have been policies that discourage pregnancies,  discriminatory policies; companies look for men and women have been given ‘auxiliary jobs’ which means less payment and no promotion. Women are fired because of their reproductive choices; childless women are considered the “time bomb” because they can have two children and so they will take two maternity leaves. They have been considered as a liability because they will take maternity leave, insurances and won’t be fruitful for the long run.

There are many laws to curb discrimination,[8]and a legal route is also available, but women don’t go for it because it is a very tedious and long process. Also, no compensation is provided to them so it’s worthless.According to Human Rights Watch- “Gender gap and poor enforcement of anti-discrimination laws” lead to job discrimination.Global Gender Gap report[9] ranked China 107th out of 156 countries, and if the situation remains the same then their rank would decrease in the coming years.

Secondly, China is a country that still believes that women’s place belongs in the kitchen and men don’t support or help women with household chores. With the economic boom, young Chinese are avoiding marriages because they are not ready for it, the majority of them are single child and has a huge responsibility towards their parents and Women are prioritizing education and want to work instead of marrying and bringing up a kid.Also, Gender consequences and burden of care are wholly on mothers.

Three child policy will impact rural areas too, they are less educated, suffering from poverty and, still believes in a big family and need of a male child so they will indeed welcome this policy, but the government wants the urban population to give birth to a third child which is not possible, for them it is too expensive to handle three children.

With all these issues government want women to give birth to one more child without giving any subsidies, tax benefits, mental, social and healthcare support, they have a provision of limited care for just three years and they don’t care.There have been so many promises given by the government that they will support women, end discrimination, change laws but as we know, these are too vague to be delivered. Changing laws won’t make a difference, but proper implementation of laws will. Making policies without providing any supporting measures for their citizens is a harsh step.

According to a report by HRW,[10] the government should amend existing laws, increase penalties for discriminatory employees, prohibit job advertisements from specifying child-bearing status requirements, and halt propaganda encouraging women to stay home and have children. China needs a culture shift. China believes that children are the public good because they are the contributors to tomorrow’s workforce, so the government should take responsibility and support families and children. Women deserve basic sexual and reproductive rights. Every woman has their own choices and China needs to respect them. There should be no control over family planning. Personal choice and equality in the workplace are important. China should think about this instead of bringing policies and implementing them without a second thought!

Author(s) Name: Sanjali Shukla (Student, University of Lucknow)


 [1] China allows three children in major policy shift, BBC News, (last visited June 15, 2021).

[2] China’s one-child policy: what was it and what impact did it have?, South China Morning Post, (last visited June 13, 2021).

[3] 336 million Chinese abortions in 40 years, Aljazeera, (last visited June 13, 2021).

[4] China’s Two-Child Policy, Bloomberg Quint, (last visited June 14, 2021).

[5] Jessie Yeung and Nectar Gan, Chinese women were already discriminated in the workplace. A three-child policy might make things worse, CNN Business (June 7, 2021, 6:16 AM),

[6] Ibid.

[7] China census: Data shows slowest population growth in decades, BBC News, (last visited June 15, 2021).

[8] Anti-Discrimination Laws in China, L&E Global, (last visited June 17, 2021).

[9] Global Gender Gap Report 2020, World Economic Forum, (last accessed June 17, 2021).

[10] Take Maternity Leave and You’ll Be Replaced: China’s Two-Child Policy and Workplace Gender Discrimination, Human Rights Watch, (last visited June 17, 2021).

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