Double Happiness in Shanghai

The world’s most populous nation (1.3 billion people) is looking to raise its birth rate. China is under pressure to relax the country’s one-child policy, begun almost 3 decades ago to support the country’s development. Now there may not be enough young people in the workforce to pay for its aging population and continue economic development. Shanghai is now inviting their citizens to drink from the cup of ‘double happiness’, and to have two children. The unintended consequences of the one-child policy are seen in cities like Shanghai, where almost 20% of the population are senior citizens (twice the national average).

Multiple generations of single-children families, a focus on producing more boys than girls, and an increase in the number of older citizens has led to a new reality. It is anticipated that between 35 to 45 million Chinese men are not going to be able to find wives in coming years. Although husbands and wives who are from single children families will be allowed to have 2 children in Shanghai, many couples aren’t interested in this ‘double happiness’ because of the high cost of living that requires both parents work and the fact that parents, according to custom, must pay for a home for each son when they reach adulthood.

The national government is afraid that totally doing away with the one-child policy will create a population boom. This demographic pressure between not enough children and the possibility of too many children is not to be resolved soon. Whatever happens, the issue will influence the country’s biggest economic advantage: inexpensive labor in the labor-intensive manufacturing industry.

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