For Cash-Strapped Parents, Two Babies Are Too Many

Call it reproduction with Chinese capitalist characteristics. On November 15, authorities announced that the country’s One-Child Policy would be loosened, adding couples in which one spouse is an only child to the list of families allowed to have two children. Experts hope the new measure will increase China’s birth rate—which at 1.5 per woman lies below replacement level—and ameliorate labor shortages caused by an aging population.

But according to a November 18 survey of 5,000 web users conducted on Sina Weibo, a surprisingly large portion of Chinese think one is plenty: fifty-two percent of respondents said the “economic pressure” of a second child would be too much. Chinese wages are expected to rise 8.4 percent in 2013, yet many still feel constrained. “In China, when you get married you have to take care of both partners’ parents,” explained one Weibo user. “And don’t forget the mortgage. Add another child to that and the pressure is enormous.” (The Weibo findings are consistent with another online survey, conducted on November 19, in which eighty percent of respondents eschewing a second child cited financial concerns.)

The forty-eight percent who voted in favor of larger families felt that siblings inspire humility. Many Chinese complain the One-Child Policy has given rise to a generation of self-centered only children, known as “little emperors.”

Although a poll of self-selected netizens may not reliably reflect the attitudes of China’s masses, a survey released in October by the Family Planning Commission, the organ responsible for implementing the One-Child Policy, found that only fifty to sixty percent of couples affected by the upcoming policy reform wanted a second child (though it didn’t specify why).

Online, at least, financial concerns carry the day. One Weibo user argued the reforms will help the rich more than the poor. “If you have money, you can have ten kids,” she wrote. “But if you’re broke, even two children is too many.”