For many young Beijing parents, debate about China’s restrictive “one-child” policy is far less pressing than the task at hand — how to afford the cost of bringing up even one child. China’s census released on Thursday should make for stark reading for policymakers, showing more old people and fewer young people to pay for them, the result of three decades of policies aimed at slowing population growth.
While the government enforces the policy unevenly these days — urban couples who are themselves single children are permitted two of their own, for example — policy makers have shown no intention of abandoning it. Yet with ever-rising costs in cities such as Beijing, the question for many is not whether they want another child but whether they can bear the cost.
“I can’t even get this one into kindergarten,” complained housewife Li Tong, 29, out walking with her three-year-old son in Beijing’s fashionable Sanlitun shopping district. “Education is a real concern for us. I have many friends who don’t want children at all. One is enough for me.” Like the residents of Hong Kong and Singapore, which have among the world’s lowest birthrates, China’s urbanites are starting to believe that the expense of maintaining larger families outweighs the benefits.