Family planning used to be a very important tool for population control in the twentieth century. The underlying premise is that we had too many people on Earth already.
In 1798, Thomas Robert Malthus published his famous book, Essay on the Principle of Population. Malthus is an economist. In the essay on the Principle of Population, Malthus proposed the principle that human populations grow exponentially while food production grows at an arithmetic rate. Thus, while food output was likely to increase in a series of twenty-five year intervals in the arithmetic progression 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and so on, population was capable of increasing in the geometric progression 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, and so forth. This scenario of arithmetic food growth with simultaneous geometric human population growth predicted a future when humans would have no resources to survive on. To avoid such a catastrophe, Malthus urged controls on population growth.
In the post Second World War era, we saw baby booms all over the world. After a while, Malthus’s warning is deemed to be a real and imminent danger. Therefore, applying family planning to reduce population explosion has been thought to be reasonable. The one child policy of China is the hall mark of this movement.
However, in the twenty first century, we have seen a change of heart in this trend. For instance, after the 18th CPC national congress, the once independent National Population and Family Planning Commission are integrated with the Ministry of Health to form the new National Health and Family Planning Commission. This is the herald of what is to come.
After the 3rd plenary session of the 18th CPC, the one child policy is poised to loosen up. Why are we loosening up? This is definitively the catch twenty one we are facing in this world. Do we want to increase our population due to the phenomenon that the population has decreased? The world’s population has just surpassed 7 billions recently. The earth as a whole is still facing an overproduction of humans.
Dwindling population might be true to some parts of the world. For instance, in certain European countries and like Taiwan, the fertility rates are lower than two. The fertility rate is 1.1 in Taiwan, which means a couple cannot even replace themselves. So the population in Taiwan has shrunk a bit. The Taiwanese government has been encouraging the birth of a third child.
However, even with the decrease in the developed countries, the unemployment rates are high among young people in such countries, which indicates the fact that their economy still cannot support he sizes of their populations. So why are the governments encouraging more births, not only in Taiwan but also in mainland china? The problem at the core is aging.
We are fast approaching a super aged society. We are worried that the population of productive ages cannot support the volume of dependent population in the end. For instance, in China, due to one child policy, in very near future one young laborer might have to support 6 elder family members, i.e., father, mother and grandparents from both sides. The solution seems to lie in increasing younger generations to support an aging society. But the paradox is that there is a global phenomenon young people cannot find jobs. And if they not producing at all, how scan they support the elderly?
Some attributes this phenomenon to the problem of the elderly taking up existing jobs. But the other explanation is that the economy is not changing in line with the direction of the population is changing. We have to embrace the fact that the economy is changing in nature and could be shrinking. With the development of new technology, the operation of our economy is changing. We might not need that many young guys after all because we scan use robots. When the baby boomers are young, the economy thrives on the needs of the young. Right now, the economy relies on the needs of the elderly. The elderly might not spend money as handsomely as the youngsters. But the reality is that we are facing a smaller economy. We need to live with it and try to utilize it to give both older people and younger people good lives. The median age of the population has shifted and our economy should grow old as well. More people are not a good solution to the already overburdened earth.