Is China’s Two-Child Policy Exacerbating Gender Inequality?

Our study suggests the two-child policy may exacerbate a vicious circle of gender inequality in post-reform China. (Image:  Pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
Our study suggests the two-child policy may exacerbate a vicious circle of gender inequality in post-reform China. (Image: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Since China ended its one-child policy and allowing all families to have up to two children, an additional 90 million women have become eligible to have a second child. But new UBC sociology research suggests the new universal two-child policy could be negatively affecting women’s status and gender equality.

The study, published in the Chinese Sociological Review, found that women with less marital power — shaped by their relative income, resources and education — had lower “fertility autonomy” and were likelier to succumb to pressure to have a second child even if they did not want to.

Using 2016 survey data, the researchers examined the fertility intentions of women who wanted no more than one child and already had one. Women were asked to indicate who had the greater power in their families — the husband or wife.

They found that self-reported power levels correlated to which spouse had more material resources, income, and education, which in turn affected women’s ability to stop having children when they no longer wanted any more children.

The findings have far-reaching implications for gender equality in urban China since motherhood is a major contributor to the gender pay gap, said Qian. Unlike Canada and many European countries that have generous family-friendly policies to encourage fertility and facilitate work-family balance, the Chinese government no longer provides welfare benefits, such as childcare subsidies or publicly funded kindergartens. As a result, employment rates and earnings of mothers increasingly lag behind those of fathers.

The researchers argue that more policies should be developed to lessen the disadvantages arising from childbearing that women face, and to enhance women’s status in the era of the universal two-child policy.

Provided by: University of British Columbia [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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