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One-Child Policy


The One-Child Policy was a population control measure implemented by the Chinese government in 1979, that limited most families in China to having only one child. The policy was designed to control the growth of China’s enormous population. However, it was replaced in 2016 with a two-child policy due to the country’s aging population and low birth rate.


The phonetic spelling of the keyword “One-Child Policy” is: /wʌn tʃaɪld ˈpɒlɪsi/

Key Takeaways


  1. Population Control: The One-Child Policy was introduced in China in 1979 to limit China’s rapidly growing population. It successfully reduced the country’s population growth over the past four decades.
  2. Gender imbalance: An unintended consequence of the policy is a significant gender imbalance in China. Due to a traditional preference for sons, many families used sex-selective practices to ensure their one child was a boy. This has resulted in a significant shortage of women in the country.
  3. Ageing population: The One-Child Policy has resulted in an ageing population in China. With fewer young people and an increasing number of elderly, the burden of caring for the elderly is falling on a smaller working-age population.


The One-Child Policy is a significant term in the field of business and finance due to its considerable socioeconomic implications. Enforced in China from 1979 to 2015, this policy was aimed at controlling the population by limiting most urban families to having only one child. The policy had profound effects on China’s demographic structure and economic performance. The one-child policy drastically altered the age distribution of the population, leading to a decrease in the young labor force and an increase in the elderly population.

This aging demographic not only put financial stress on social security and healthcare systems but also impeded economic growth due to decreased consumer spending and labor productivity. Moreover, the gender imbalance due to a traditional preference for male offspring elevated social tensions. Thus, understanding the One-Child Policy is crucial in interpreting China’s contemporary economic landscape and making future business and financial predictions.


The One-Child Policy was introduced by the Chinese government in 1979 as a family planning strategy aimed at controlling the rapid population growth which threatened China’s economic development and sustainability. The policy was essential to limit the demands for resources like food, water, and energy. This was in response to fears that unchecked population growth, as observed in the years before the policy’s implementation, would put too much strain on the nation’s economy, and ultimately cripple China’s ability to improve its citizens’ living standards, as resources and state services like education and healthcare were overly stretched.

Furthermore, the One-Child Policy was believed to be a measure that could spur economic growth by reducing the dependency ratio —an economic indicator defined as the ratio of dependents (children and elderly) to the working-age population. A high dependency ratio could be trouble for any economy, as fewer people work and contribute to the economy, whereas more people depend on the social and welfare services it provides. Thus, by restricting family size, the Chinese government hoped to make it easier for families to invest more in their only child, in terms of education and skills enhancement, with the long-term goal of creating a more competent workforce that could boost China’s economy.


1. China’s One-Child Policy: The most famous example of a one-child policy was implemented by the People’s Republic of China in 1979, aimed largely at controlling the country’s exploding population. This not only resulted in slowing down population growth but it also ended up causing a gender imbalance in the population due to the cultural preference for male children. It significantly influenced the domestic economy as well as international business interactions.

2. Singapore’s “Stop at Two” Policy: In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Singapore implemented a policy encouraging families to “stop at two” kids to control its own population growth. Similar to the Chinese one-child policy, Singapore’s policy influenced the economy by adjusting the nation’s human resources allocation. But unlike China, Singapore now faces a problem of low birth rate, hence it is now promoting fertility and parenthood to balance the situation.

3. Iran’s Family Planning Policy: From 1989, Iran implemented a quite effective family planning program, which included a one-child policy as part of an attempt to control the population post-Iran-Iraq war. The law was changed in 2006 towards encouraging bigger families due to fears of an aging demographic. This led to drastic changes in the country’s economy, presenting challenges for the government in terms of adjusting economic plans to accommodate these swift demographic changes.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the One-Child Policy?

The One-Child Policy was a population control measure enacted by the Chinese government in 1979, which limited couples in China to having only one child.

What was the purpose of the One-Child Policy?

The main intent of the One-Child Policy was to reduce the rapid population growth in China, with an aim to alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems.

Is the One-Child policy still in effect?

No, the One-Child Policy officially ended in 2016, when China relaxed the rule to allow all families to have two children.

How did the One-Child Policy impact China’s population structure?

The One-Child Policy has resulted in an uneven age distribution, with a large elderly population and fewer young people. This ratio has been a significant factor in current demographic challenges China faces, such as an ageing population and a reduced worker base.

Has the One-Child Policy impacted gender balance in China?

Yes, due to a traditional preference for sons in Chinese culture, there has been a significant gender imbalance, with significantly more males than females.

How was the One-Child Policy enforced?

The policy was enforced through various mechanisms, including monetary penalties, loss of employment or social benefits, and in some cases, forced abortions or sterilizations.

Was the One-Child Policy applicable nationwide in China?

Although the policy was largely implemented across the country, there were exceptions. Ethnic minorities, rural families, and parents without siblings were often allowed to have more than one child.

What were the economic implications of the One-Child Policy?

While the One-Child Policy did help control population growth, it also contributed to a labor shortage and decreased consumption, hampering economic growth. Moreover, it has placed a burden on the younger generation, who now have to support a large elderly population.

How has the policy affected family structures?

The policy has resulted in smaller family units, often referred to as the 4-2-1 problem, where one child is responsible for the care of two parents and four grandparents.

What happened after the termination of the One-Child Policy?

After the policy ended in 2016, China implemented a Two-Child Policy. However, the birth rate has not increased significantly, indicating societal changes in attitudes towards family size.

Related Finance Terms

  • Population Control
  • Family Planning
  • Birth Rate
  • Demographic Transition
  • Social Welfare

Sources for More Information

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