Handbook of Welfare in China
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Handbook of Welfare in China

Edited by Beatriz Carrillo, Johanna Hood and Paul Kadetz

The Handbook is a timely compilation dedicated to exploring a rare diversity of perspectives and content on the development, successes, reforms and challenges within China’s contemporary welfare system. It showcases an extensive introduction and 20 original chapters by leading and emerging area specialists who explore a century of welfare provision from the Nationalist era, up to and concentrating on economic reform and marketisation (1978 to the present). Organised around five key concerns (social security and welfare; emerging issues and actors; gaps; future challenges) chapters draw on original case-based research from diverse disciplines and perspectives, engage existing literature and further key debates.
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Chapter 19: The impacts of the universal two-child policy and strategies to face the challenges of population ageing

Yi Zeng and Therese Hesketh


In October 2015, China’s ‘one-child policy’ was replaced by a universal two-child policy. The impacts of the new policy are inevitably speculative, but predictions can be made based on recent trends. The population increase will be relatively small, peaking at 1.45 billion in 2029 (compared with a peak of 1.4 billion in 2023 if the one-child policy continued). The new policy will allow almost all Chinese people to have their preferred number of children. The benefits of the new policy include virtual elimination of abortions of unapproved pregnancies and problems of unregistered children and a lower sex ratio at birth – all of which should improve health outcomes. Impacts of the new policy on the shrinking workforce and rapid population ageing will not be evident for two decades. In the meantime more sound policy actions need to be taken to meet the social, health and care needs of the quickly growing elderly population. About 45 per cent of China’s population currently live in rural areas, where the potential is great for fertility increase to enrich the future workforce and cumulate pension premium funds from young farmers (who previously have not participated in old-age insurance programmes). China’s current low retirement age and cultural tradition of familial care for the elderly could provide useful potential opportunities to address ageing problems. In conclusion, we believe that if (and only if) the universal two-child policy is thoroughly and quickly implemented and other needed policy actions are taken, China should be able to face the serious challenges of population ageing.

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