Challenges in contemporary Chinese demography

Session organised by Dr. Stuart Gietel-Basten, University of Oxford 

9.00am Wednesday 9 September 

The logic of China’s industrialism: Development, demography, and the building of a welfare state
Rachel Woodlee, University of Oxford 

Harold Wilensky’s (1975) “logic of industrialism” thesis was the first explanation for the development of modern welfare states. Wilensky argued that as economies industrialize, important demographic shifts – especially population ageing and rural-urban migration – occur that create newly vulnerable groups in society, which in turn necessitates support from the state to mitigate those risks. This paper will seek to apply the “logic of industrialism” to the case of Chinese welfare state building since the mid 1990s. Wilensky’s work, I will argue, is particularly applicable to the Chinese case because of the country’s unique population policies, which have exacerbated the demographic effects of industrialization. The first policy area examined will be the rapid increase of the aged population (people 65+ are estimated to make up more than 25% of the population by 2050) due to China’s restrictive birth planning policies, which in turn has made the extension of old age insurance a central area of policy focus. The second area will be the more than 150 million people in China’s “floating population”, rural to urban migrants who were outside of the social safety net due to their lack of valid hukou registration. By maintaining strict population policies that create imbalances in the population structure, Chinese leaders have been forced to expand social benefits. This analysis will highlight the often-overlooked demographic underpinnings of the industrialization thesis, and will advance a demography-based theory for the manner in which China is building its modern welfare state. 


Transition to second birth in ultra-low fertility Pacific Asia: A qualitative comparative study of Beijing and Taipei
Emily Freeman1,  Stuart A. Basten1,  Xiaohong Ma2,  Ping Yan3, Lih-Rong Wang4, Wen-shan Yang5; 1University of Oxford, 2Renmin University of China, 3Beijing Administrative Institute,4 National Taiwan University, 5 Academia Sinica Hsieh Shih, Academia Sinica 

Numerous studies have identified sub-replacement fertility preferences in both urban China and elsewhere in East Asia. In urban China in particular, many couples who are eligible to have a second child by virtue of their being only children (this group being extended in 2013) do not do so, mainly citing economic pressure. Qualitative studies of fertility preferences in East Asia, and China in particular, are very rare. In this paper we present the results of a unique exercise where women with one child in both Beijing and Taiwan were asked the same question set about their decisions concerning moving to have a second child. Preliminary results indicate; the importance of economic pressure; the critical role of the reconcilation of work and family life, especially for women; the rather limited effect of policies to help childbearing (in Taiwan) and the role of traditional gender roles in shaping fertility outcomes 


Income inequality, wellbeing and health among Chinese older adults
Xuejie Ding, Francesco C. Billari; University of Oxford 

In this paper we conduct multilevel analyses to revisit the relationship of individual SES, aggregate-level wellbeing, institutional settings and income inequality to health status (measured by self-rated health and eight biomarkers) of Chinese older adults. Using data for older adults in China from CHARLS national baseline, our analyses show consistent evidence that older adults in China with lower SES are more likely to report a poorer health status. Results using biomarkers are weaker but generally consistent. Individuals living in Chinese provinces with a higher level of economic wellbeing are less likely to report poor health, but provincial-level economic wellbeing is not a significant predictor for biomarkers. No supportive evidence was found in favour income inequality hypothesis, and the only statistically significant relationships run in a direction that is in contrast with the theory. We argue that the absence of such link between income inequality and health is due to governmental interference in provincial health-related public infrastructure. Certain aspects of the Chinese culture are also discussed to provide potential interpretation of our results. 


Transition to second and third birth: role of family planning policy and women’s education in China
Min Qin, Sabu Padmadas, Jane Falkingham; University of Southampton 

Background: China has transitioned to a low fertility rate for decades, which contributed economic growth on the one hand, but leaded to an accelerated population aging, distorted sex ratios, and changes to the Chinese family and kinship system on the other hand. Objective: to examine the effect of family planning (FP) policies on the second and third birth transition; and to identify whether FP polices have differential effects on educational groups over time. Methods: The observations are based on five successive China Population and Family Planning Survey data during 1982-2006. The estimates are obtained from pooled observations on birth history information. A discrete time complementary log-log survival model is employed. FP polices are measured in individual exposures to particular policy during the study birth interval, which is more complete, exogenous, and heterogeneous compared to the existing studies. Results: Parity progression ratios to second birth and third birth tend to be lower after the FP policies were introduced and differential effect of policy exist even after controlling for demographic and socio-economic factors; there is a negative effect of increasing women's education on parity transition; moreover, FP polices has differential effects on educational groups. Conclusions: FP policies and women’s education both play important role in shaping fertility behavior in China. Low fertility achieved in China is a joint result of FP policies and as in other societies a great extent by increasingly women’s education. Had the strict FP policy relaxed, e.g. to universal two-child policy, with the social and economic development, the fertility increase might not be as large as is assumed. 


Gender ratio under China's Two-Child Policy
Bing Xu, Maxwell Pak (presenter); Research Institute of Economics and Management, Southwestern University of Finance and Economics. 

China's one-child policy has often been criticized for exacerbating its gender imbalance. Although such criticism implies that the gender imbalance should improve significantly once the one-child policy is removed, experiences of other countries with similar gender imbalance and no mandated fertility limit suggest that this conclusion should not be accepted without closer examination. Consequently, this paper examines the effects of allowing parents to have two children on the gender ratio. Specifically, we build a model of parental decision-making, in which parents choose between letting nature decide the gender of their child and manipulating the birth process to increase the likelihood of obtaining a son, and identify the optimal behaviors in this framework. We investigate the equilibrium level of gender imbalance under both the one-child and the two-child policy settings and show through a series of examples that the gender imbalance need not improve under the two-child policy.