The scavenger in The Scavenger's Daughters adopts many unwanted Chinese girls and adds them to his growing family. The casting away of girls has been noted as one of the many devastating impacts of China's one-child policy.
More than 30 years ago, China implemented a program where couples were allowed to have only one child with some exceptions: in villages, for example, you were allowed another if the first was a girl. Critics of this harsh rule have pointed to increased female infanticide, forced abortions and sterilizations, and abandoned children. Many Chinese girls have been adopted around the world and charities expressly formed to foster a better understanding of Chinese culture among these children and their adoptive parents. Officials in favor of the mandate have pointed out that a country whose population is more than 1.3 billion can ill afford to grow at a faster rate. They claim that the law has prevented 400 million additional births from taking place and decreased strains on the environment and scarce resources. While the law has been unpopular, a number of Chinese, especially in urban centers where career pressures are strong, have embraced it.
Violation of the rules can lead to stiff fines and entire bureaucracies have been developed to enforce the law and to collect associated penalties. The fines provide a substantial source of income to local governments in 2012 alone, 19 province-level governments in China collected $2.7 billion in fines. The fees are prohibitive and can range from three to ten times a family's annual income. Children born outside of the allotment are undocumented and not eligible for government benefits. An unfortunate side effect of the law is that the rich are able to pay their way out of the system while the poor are left to bear the brunt.
China's population is forecast to peak by 2020 at around 1.4 billion before declining rapidly, according to economists at Merill Lynch, Bank of America. People aged 65 and above are likely to reach 29 percent of the population by 2050, from 9 percent in 2011. The stringent one-child policy means that, as the population ages there won't be enough young labor able to take on growth. A shrinking workforce supporting older dependents will be a challenge for an economy that has enjoyed impressive growth for a while.
In light of these worries, the Chinese government is expected to slowly ease the policy later in 2013. Policymakers are deliberating whether to allow couples, where one parent is an only child, to have two children. Currently, both parents must be sole children to be eligible for a second child. The government is also assessing whether to allow all families to have two children after 2015.
This article is from the October 2, 2013 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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