A research project on parental sadness that has been conducted in China since 2016..
From 1980 to 2015, the Chinese government restricted couples to only one child. I interviewed more than 100 Chinese parents who have lost their only child due to illness, accident, suicide, murder, etc. since they started their family during this period. These couples could not have another child because they were past the reproductive age at the time of their child’s death.
In 2015, the Chinese government raised the birth limit to two. Reverse the declining birth rate and revitalize the aging population.. In May 2021, a Chinese family announced that it could have up to three children.
New “three-child policy” generally received Slimy reaction in China..Many Chinese couples say they like Do not have multiple children How does it complicate women’s professional aspirations and reduce their son’s preferences as the cost of raising children rises?
The childless parents I interviewed told me that their government felt forgotten as their government moved further away from the maternity planning policies that left them unstable alone in old age. Children are the main safety net for the elderly..
Give birth to an only child, lose
China’s one-child policy was a large-scale social engineering project launched to slow rapid population growth and support economic development efforts.
Until the early 1970s, most Chinese women Had at least 5 children.. By 1979, China’s population had almost reached Billion – – Increased from 542 million in 1949.. The Chinese government claimed that the only child limit prevented the birth of 400 million people in China, This calculation is controversial As an exaggeration.
Birth restrictions were initially unpopular.
“At that time, we wanted more children. When I interviewed her in 2017, the mother of a bereaved family in her 60s said,” My parents have one child. It was even harder to accept that I could only have it. “
To implement the unpopular one-child policy, Chinese authorities Strict measuresIncludes forced contraception, and forced abortion if everything else fails.
Those who violated the policy paid a monetary penalty, and the children from Unauthorized births often cannot enroll in citizenship status and benefits.. Parents who worked for the government, and under the Chinese economic system, many city workers worked, but with two or more children, they risked losing their jobs.
Some of the bereaved mothers told me that they had a second or third child in the 1980s or 1990s, but had an abortion for fear of unemployment.
The one-child policy, though painful, has contributed to an age structure that benefits the economy. The large working-age population born around that time increased rapidly compared to the country’s young and elderly dependents.
This “demographic bonus” 15% of China’s economic growth from 1982 to 2000, According to the 2007 United Nations Working Paper.
Uncertain old age
However, China’s one-child policy also poses a risk to couples. It is the possibility of losing children in old age.
“The only child’s family is walking a tightrope. If I lost my only child, one of the bereaved families explained to me.
“We are unlucky people,” she said.
In China pension And health care The system is spotted and highly layered, and adult children are a major safety net for many older parents. Their financial support is often needed after retirement.
Estimated to have been owned by a million Chinese families Lost only child by 2010.. The parents of the bereaved family, who do not have these children, are now in their 50s and 60s and are facing an uncertain future.
Because of the long tradition of national filial piety Children also have a moral obligation to support their elderly parents.. Parental care is actually the legal responsibility of Chinese children.It is written in Chinese Constitution..
This safety net does not exist for parents who have lost the only child the government has given birth to.
Please help, but not enough
For the past 10 years A group of bereaved parents negotiated with Chinese authorities Demand financial support and access to affordable elderly care facilities. The people I interviewed said they had fulfilled their citizenship obligations by adhering to the one-child policy and now felt that the government was responsible for taking care of their old age.
Ultimately, the authorities responded to their complaints.
Since 2013, the government has launched several programs for bereaved families. In particular, there are monthly allowances, hospital care insurance, and in some areas nursing home care subsidies.
However, the parents of the bereaved family told me that these programs were not sufficient to meet their elderly care needs.
For example, adult children often take care of their parents while in the hospital, bathing, and purchasing meals. Private care assistants can charge up to US $ 46, or 300 yuan per day to do these jobs.In the area we are currently offering Government-paid hospital care insurance for parents without children, According to my research, most plans cover $ 15.50 to $ 31 (about 100 to 200 yuan) daily for care aids.
The other people I interviewed were worried about the high costs and Limited availability In many areas, quality nursing homes for the elderly in China cannot meet the demands of aging and living in these facilities is not covered by insurance.
China’s controversial one-child policy is history, but its legacy can depend on how Chinese authorities treat the sad parents left behind.
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This article will be republished from conversation, A non-profit news site aimed at sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Lihong Shi, Case Western Reserve University..
Lihong Shi is funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.