Factors Affecting Total Fertility Rate (TFR) In China

Literature Review

There is no doubt that women in China are having fewer children nowadays. Analysis by Yong Cai, Fellow of Carolina Population Centre, who used data from the 1990 and 2000 censuses, school enrolment records and household records, put China’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) at 1.5 births per woman. Although the government statistics put the official TFR figure at about 1.8 births per woman, then also, China’s TFR rate is at a below-replacement level as compared to many other developed countries of the world. Till about middle of the twentieth century, China’s TFR was being maintained at the level of more than two children per woman. But by the end of the twentieth century, the TFR witnessed a drastic drop in fertility and by early 1990s, was being recorded at its current level of one and a half children per woman. Just about fifty years ago, most of the Chinese women were giving birth to two to three children, which was also not at par with the average being recorded by most of the developing countries, (Cai (ed), 2014).

Save Time On Research and Writing
Hire a Pro to Write You a 100% Plagiarism-Free Paper.
Get My Paper

Yong Cai’s intensive research on the subject, which have been published in Demography, Asian Population Studies and Population and Development Review suggests China faced many cultural as well as economic factors during this period of decline in the TFR, which proved to be critical for the downslide of TFR in China. Some experts expressed the opinion that these factors were more responsible for the low fertility among Chinese women and did more harm in lowering the TFR than the one-child policy of the government, (Cai, 2008). Experts such as Cai are strongly advocating that Chinese women should be given the freedom of reproduction. Already, a generation has gone by since government implemented the one-child policy. During the passage of these times, the Chinese people have seen changes at the national, global and societal changes which have altered the day-to-day living style of most of the Chinese national. Among the most significant changes were the major economic reforms, increased costs for childcare and a very costly education system. Migration from the rural farmlands to the flourishing urban industrial areas and the end to the state-guaranteed employment and the elderly pension schemes in the urban areas were also instrumental in the changes which the Chinese of this era witnessed, (Cai, 2008).

Cai and other social scientist have the opinion that one-child policy should be immediately phased out. Quote “Truth is, most fertility control happened before the introduction of the one-child policy,” he said. “China is demographically ready and socially justified to change its population policy.” Unquote. [From the audio clip: hear Cai talk about China’s one-child policy and reasons to relax the policy] Cai believes that Chinese women are being deprived of their human and reproductive rights. Quote “People should have the freedom to make the decision whether to have no children or three or four.” Unquote. Giving birth to a child is an important life-event and it fulfils one of the most basic gender role of women, (Cai, 2010).

Global Scenario

Estimates released by the UN in 2007 show that humans on this earth will number more than 9 billion by 2050 and we were only 6 billion in 2000. That means we will add fifty percent more people in a span of five decades. This growth in population is more like a threat to the very existence of humanity as the world will face unprecedented scarcity of the available natural as well as manmade resources. This will lower the per capita share of what we earn and slow the economic development of the society, leading to more food shortage and poverty. It has been noted that demand for children is more in the developing countries as compared to the developed ones. Table – 01 below shows the TFR trend in developing and developed countries, (China Development Research Foundation, 2014).

TABLE – 01

Save Time On Research and Writing
Hire a Pro to Write You a 100% Plagiarism-Free Paper.
Get My Paper

Comparing Fertility Rate

Area under Survey

Fertility Rate per Woman

All over the World

2.78

Developed Countries of the World

1.73

Less Developed Countries of the World

5.19

The above data is the average calculated from data given in WDI for year 1990-2006

In some counties and provinces of China, one-child policy has been relaxed and the local administration allows couples to have a second child. Theoretically, this should lead to a higher TFR in these areas. But, Yong Cai has found in his research that TFR in these areas did not show an increase and still most women were giving birth to just one child. So, the question arises – if the authorities are willing and if the citizens have the freedom, why is TFR not increasing? This forced Cai to look deeply into the reasons of intended fertility:

If the citizens have the freedom of having more than one child, why is there no demand for more than one child?

How many Chinese woman gave birth to a second or a third child?

In the areas where the policy was relaxed, was there an increase in TFR?

To get answers to these questions, Yong Cai conducted further research, in six counties of the Jiangsu Province, about women’s intended fertility. In collaboration with a few Chinese demographic scholars and the Jiangsu Family Planning Commission [Audio clip: Cai talks about the study’s hypotheses and how he and his colleagues conducted the study in Jiangsu Province, China], a survey of 18,000 healthy and fertile women was conducted in 2007 in those six counties of the Jiangsu Province. Results showed that of the 18,000 respondents, 5,400 (30%) were found to be able and ready for a second child. Of these 5,400 qualified respondents, almost a third were willing to have a second child. A recent check carried out by the Jiangsu Family Planning Commission found that only about 4% (200) of the 5,400 qualified have actually given birth to a second child since 2007, (Cai, 2010).

The Chinese Scenario

Further research on the topic is Cai’s future program and in the second phase of his study in the Jiangsu Province, Cai wants to examine the Chinese families about their decision concerning the fertility issue. He also intends to obtain data from other countries, where the fertility rates are low, so as to develop a comparative analysis with the Chinese data. According to Cai, a lot can be learned from the experiences of other countries, as to how their policies changed with their demographic make-up. Quote “This low fertility phenomenon is not limited to China. It’s actually a global phenomenon so I want to bring a comparative perspective to this research.” Unquote.

Universally, the empirical research pattern into the fertility issue has shown that fertility can be negatively linked to the education and employment factors of the women living in that area. This happens because an improved education and employment opportunity in the area exposes those women to the latest ideas and modern values. These impart a sense of individualism and gender equality in these women. Moreover, with economic independence, the women tend to take decisions about themselves and the number of children they would have is one such decision. This shows that an enhanced education level and increased opportunities of participating in workforce does contribute to the decline in fertility among women, especially in the developing countries, (Cai, 2010).

This scenario has gained proportions since 1949 with the founding of People’s Republic of China. The socialist state administration has played a strong role in attaining higher levels in women’s employment and education, thus slackening the TFR to a slower pace. Since female participation in the workforce has always been high in China, such a high rate of female workforce had a direct consequence of reduced TFR. Another factor, which was evident during the early years of this change was that not much improvisation had been made in improving the educational opportunities for women as compared to men’s. This was because gender inequality in the education system was quite high during the first three decades of establishing the People’s Republic of China. Only in recent years has China witnessed a huge improvement in women’s education as compared to men’s, (Bhat & Zavier, 2005).

Through this paper, my aim is to traverse those dynamic pathways which can be explored thoroughly for finding a justification process where amalgamation of the improvement in women’s status and the decline in their fertility levels come to equal terms with each other. My endeavour is to focus on the social impact which the reduced fertility levels of women are creating in order that there is an improvement in the social status of women. On the basis of the data from obtained from two national surveys, conducted in 2000 and 2006, I shall test a set of hypotheses associating child birth and women’s status, within the family as well as across generations; between the sibship size and educational attainment of women as relative to the men, not only in China but across other developed nations, (Kravdal, 2007).

Causes for these Scenarios

This paper will use cross-sectional data of the developing countries for the last decade to find answers for following questions:

  1. What are the main factors that explain the fertility rate in developing countries?
  2. What is the reason for high fertility rate in developing countries as compare to developed countries?
  3. What is the role of women education in fertility rate?
  4. What policies could the developing countries implement to control increasing demand for more children?

Urbanisation of large sections of the population is a crucial factor in the generation of a lower fertility rate. In literature studies, scholars have found that as people living in urban areas have better access to an updated lifestyle and modern facilities with access to various methods of family planning, this also results in creating adverse relations between fertility and urbanisation. Infant mortality may also affect fertility decisions, especially among women as they may link mortality with adverse fertility and this means that both can affect each other. Compared to developed countries, infant mortality rate has been found to be higher in the developing countries, and this can be one reason for higher fertility rate in developing countries as compared to the developed countries, (Kravdal, 2007). It is an established fact that increased participation by women in workforce creates a negative effect on the fertility rate. The reason behind this is that working women find less time for the upbringing of their children while being employed and hence they prefer quality in children over quantity.

No education or low level of education is also considered to be a big obstacle in welfare of women as it leads to gender inequality in family as well as in public domain. Hence, the present era educated women would prefer to increase the literacy rate of the next generation. It has been seen that next generation literacy rate is often low in the families of women who themselves are less educated women. An adverse effect of this aspect is also seen when women who attain higher education are often found to marry at a late age and this lowers the odds of producing more children. In short, such studies have established that women education can reduce the production of more children and it does have a negative relationship with fertility rate, (Cole, 2003).

Effect of income on fertility rate can be positive or negative depending on the economic condition of the family. Income effect can be positive on fertility rate if children are considered as economic assets or security for old age. On the other hand, income effect can be negative on fertility rate if parents want quality in their children instead of quantity or if higher income is related by them with higher opportunity cost, (Cole, 2003).

Educated women become cautious of their rights and tend to become independent, both economically and socially. This independence urges them to make their own choices and the increasing bargaining power which they start harnessing reduces their fertility rate, (Hu, 2006). Although, in most of the civilised societies, especially in the developed countries, where human rights are predominant, this improved status of women has improved the relations between husband and wife and husbands too respect the choices made by their wives. More education also enables the modern women to avoid the pressure from religious taboos or family behaviour adversaries in the society to pressurise them in having more children. Thus, most of the literature studies have found that there is a strong negative relationship existing between women education and fertility rate, (Hu, 2006).

A large section of literature studies have concluded that the most important reason for the declining rate of fertility in women is because of their high inclination towards education. This is especially predominant in societies which are still male dominated and the educated women is breaking the shackles of the tortures social taboos to have fewer children who can be given better education rather than having large number of children who cannot be made into good human beings, (Bhat & Zavier, 2005). This is known as the quality-quantity trade-off. Educated women are also becoming more sensitive to the health issues of their children as well as of themselves and this is resulting not only to a lower child mortality rate but also in lower fertility rates, (Bhat & Zavier, 2005).

In some of the developed countries, some literature studies have suggested a higher fertility rate among educated women. This is because such educated women became aware about the necessities of improved fertility rates for the betterment of the coming generations. A better knowledge about sex, reproduction and a healthy body can be achieved by educating women, because they are the first-contact point for the child. Since women possess greater competence in the handling of complex situations, it is beneficial for the society to maximize their ability in rendering a range of services to the coming generation, including family planning, (Logan, 2011). Although some literature studies also argue that women education does not become beneficial for their children due to less time which they devote to their children but such studies acknowledge that this at least leads to many other improvement benefits for the children, such as health, as this reduces infant mortality rate and hence raises the demand for more children, (Logan, 2011).

Many developed countries, including China, experienced a major decline in their fertility rates in the late twentieth century era. China, because of stricter state control was the worst affected. Whereas the birth rate in the country remained stationery at 35 per thousand during the first decade of the People’s Republic, its death rate declined by half, from 20 per thousand to 10 per thousand during the period from 1949 to 1965, (Bond (ed), 2010). A major reason could be the improved healthcare and society’s recovery from years of civil war. Substantial improvements in people’s lifestyle were evident during the period of the Great Leap Forward and China’s population saw a huge increase, from 541,670,000 in 1952 to 829,920,000 in 1970, (Bond (ed), 2010). This was the pinnacle of population growth in China as it recorded a natural growth rate of 33.33 per thousand in 1963 (National Bureau of Statistics 2009, p. 1).

The reduced fertility rate in China of the 70s had yielded heavy social consequences, such as the problem of an aging population and gender inequality. Given these facts, the focus of this paper is on the complex model noticed in the analytical framework outlined in Figure-01 below, namely, how the reduced fertility rate enhanced women’s status, both outside and within their families. This author is of the opinion, that the China case can allow this paper to handle efficiently the issues of reverse causality while overseeing the relationship between decline in fertility and gender inequality, (Angang, 2012).

Figure – 01:

Analytic Framework: Childbearing and the Pathway to Women’s Status Improvement

In this paper, an analysis of the data from Women’s Status Survey (shown in Table-02 in Appendix) was done to examine the impact of fertility rate on married women’s status in China. The survey was conducted by the China National Bureau of Statistics in association with the Chinese Federation of Women in the year 2000 and hence referred to as WSS2000. For analysis, parameter within the family were chosen and tested using Hypotheses 1 & 2. There were 19,449 respondents, aged between 18 and 64 and included both men and women. Questions related to marriage, gender roles, fertility, division of household labour and workforce activities. The results were restricted to the 8,531 married women who were part of the survey, (China Development Research Foundation, 2014).

To examine the effects of a reduced sibship size in the families, because of the declining fertility rates, our next analysis was based on the China General Social Survey. This survey was based on gender equality in educational and occupational attainment in the subsequent generation and was tested using Hypotheses 3 & 4. This annual survey involved respondents on national level from the adult population aged 18 and above from rural and urban China. The survey was held in 2006 (hence called CGSS2006) finally contained 10,151 completed interviews of the respondent adults. The sample respondents were those born between 1949 and 1988, which meant that the respondents were men and women of age 18 to 57 when the survey was made. The questions asked were connected to information on sibling configuration. Respondents were specifically asked about the numbers of their elder brothers and sisters, younger brothers and sisters and each interviewee had to reflect on the relationship between the sibships (see Table- 03 in Appendix). The information obtained from this survey was not gathered by other similar surveys, (China Development Research Foundation, 2014).

While analysing data from WSS2000, this author used two dependent variables for measuring status of women within the marriage and family – (a) division of housework and (b) satisfaction from the perceived status.

Respondents were asked only two questions.

Who does more housework?

This question had three possible choices: (i) the husband; (ii) the wife; (iii) both about the same.

As the question was put to married women, it was treated as an ordinal variable, used for measuring share of women in the housework.

How satisfied are you with your status within the family?

The answers to this question were measured on an ordinal scale of 1 to 4. 1 indicated highly unsatisfied; 2 indicated unsatisfied; 3 denoted satisfied and 4 indicated highly satisfied.

The key independent variable considered was the number of children the respondent had and this was treated as a continuous variable throughout the analysis. There were four control variables – (1) education; (2) work status; (3) residence; and (4) marriage cohort.

Education was coded in four levels – (a) primary school or below; (b) junior high school; (c) senior high school; and (d) college or above. These levels were treated as a set of dummy variables in the multivariate models.

Work status was treated as a dummy variable and indicated whether or not the respondent was involved in any kind of paid work at the time the survey was conducted (1 if yes and 0 otherwise).

Residence was also treated as a dummy variable.

Marriage cohorts were segregated on the periods in which the respondents got married – 1952-1970, 1971-1980, 1981-1990, and 1991-2000. Thus, four marriage cohorts were used for examining the temporal trends, (Lutz, 2013).

From the data shown in Figures-03 and 04 (see Appendix), it is apparent that even in developing countries of African continent, the higher a woman attains the education level, the fewer is the number of children she has. All these factors do not justify the fact that fewer children per woman could be because of delayed marriages and childbearing. Nor did it mean that more resources per child and a better health and survival rate was feasible for the mother and the children, (OECD, 2010). The basic question still posed the same ambiguity as at the beginning – How much of this could be because of causation and how much was due to correlation?

Even in the developing countries, a negative correlation was seen between the attainment of different levels of education in the women and the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in a section of the society. Figure-03 in Appendix shows the TFR trends in Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya, among women who had attained different level of education during the same periods of time. The final analysis derived from these results shows that in all the three countries, there can be noticed striking differences in TFR levels between those women who had no schooling and those who had a high school education. In Ghana, women who had high school education showed TFR between 2 and 3, whereas those who had no education were showing a TFR of 6 during 2008. Similarly, women in Ethiopia with high school education showed a TFR of 1.3 and those with no education had TFR of 5, (OECD, 2010).

In most studies experts consider if female education drives a decline in the TFR by asking the respondents – Do women prefer smaller families because they want to study longer? However, the sub-Saharan countries in Africa clearly support the causal role played by female education in fertility decline. An education reform in Kenya aimed at increasing the duration of primary education by a year had the effect of a higher education attainment by women and resulted in delayed marriages and low fertility. Another random exercise to reduce cost of school uniform in Kenya not only decreased dropout rate among female students but also led to reduction in teenage marriages and childbearing. In Nigeria, a study concluded that by increasing women’s education course by one year led to a reduction in early fertility by 0.26 births, (OECD, 2010).

When a closer look is taken at the causal link is taken in Ethiopia, 61% of women with no schooling gave birth to a child before turning 20 as compared to only 16% of women who had 8 years of schooling. Based on a study of education and fertility in Ethiopia, it was found that an additional year in school led to a 7% reduction in motherhood among teenage girls and 6% decrease in probability of childhood marriages. Studies also revealed that women after eight years of schooling were found to have fertility rate which was 53% lower than those who had no schooling at all, (Cai (ed), 2014).

Why female education creates a direct effect on fertility? According to the economic theory of fertility, an incentive effect is there: educated women consider the high opportunity costs of bearing children and compare it to lost income. According to the ideation theory, an educated woman can easily understand the benefits of maintaining the family size from exposure to school, community and global communication networks. Women education also impacts on age of marriage and delayed fertility as compared to education in men. Although the fertility rate falls when both male and female attain higher education, it has been seen in sub-Saharan Africa (see Figure-04 in Appendix) that gender parity in educational attainment does have a substantial effect on fertility rates. Global data suggests that education is not the sole factor to influence TFR as was seen in 1980 and 2010, Countries showed a lower fertility rate in 2010 as compared to that in 1980. This showed that other factors, such as easy access to family planning methods and to better work opportunities also influenced the fertility rate, (Cai (ed), 2014).

Discussion And Conclusions

Most developing countries (four of them are discussed in this paper) are officially coaxing their citizens, with financial incentives (as did China), economic benefits (as did China) and even paid holidays for making more babies. China, presently the most populous country in the world is not the only country which is facing the rapid changes occurring in demographics. The following four developed countries have started offering variety of incentives to encourage parents in producing more children, (Lo, 2017).

This island nation has never been so conscious about the falling fertility rate as it is now. In fact, the government’s population control policies in the past have been like the traffic lights, sometimes green, sometimes red. The administrators took all types of actions to increase availability of contraceptives and family planning programs were pursued with vigour. In the 1980s when Singapore witnessed a decline in the birth rate, a rapid reversal of the policy was done and there was the new slogan “Have Three or More Children If You Can Afford It.” This spurred the growth rate from 1.5% in the ‘70s to 2.8% in the ‘90s. To further augment the population, the administration is now offering a free cruise and a night’s stay at an Indonesian resort to the parents. Apart from this, there is $8,000 incentive in cash for the birth of the first and second child and $10,000 for subsequent children, (Lo, 2017).

The city of Ulyanovsk in Russia offers a car to parents for in producing a child. Every child born on the Russia Day (June 12) gets a special prize from the City Council under the “Give Birth to a Patriot” program. The city Council is also promoting the “Day of Conception” by offering the workers a whole day-off nine months before Russia Day. In other parts of the country, government is paying up to $13,000 to parents for child’s birth. Population in Russia has been shrinking by 700,000 people every year in the last decade. The measures taken by the government to augment the workforce are not desperate measures, but the requirement of nation who is now full of an aging workforce. The reasons have been twofold for Russia, which suffered from a low birth rate on one side and the country lost enough workers due to the high mortality rate which was caused by alcoholism among the youth, (OECD, 2010).

Japan government recently unveiled a series of austere measures to address the problem of its aging population, depleting birth rate and a foreseeable shortage of youth in the workforce. The initiatives include government-backed sessions for speed-dating and support for would-be fathers to avail paternity leave equal to that offered to the pregnant mother. In the last five decades, Japan has been consistently experiencing a steep fall in its fertility rate. The number of children which an average Japanese woman used to have during the 1947 period was 4.54 and in 2013 it declined to just 1.43, (OECD, 2010).

Among the most industrialised and developed nations of the world and the foremost affluent member of the European Union, Germany has been plagued by the steep decline of its birth rate. The governments is encouraging growth of population and the administration is spending billions of dollars every year in ‘family subsidies’ which included the provision of a stipend to parents who opted to quit their jobs after the birth of their child. The stipend paid is equivalent to the income earned by the parents before the birth of the child and has been capped at $25,000 per year. This program, started in 2007, has been initiated because Germany is acutely facing shortage of young people in the workforce. At present, Germany has only 13% of its population which is aged 14 years or younger, (OECD, 2010).

Conclusion

Foregoing the fact that decline in fertility rated in China since the ‘70s resulted because of state’s policy rather than the improved socioeconomic status of the women, this paper has focused on how a decline in fertility can lead to improvement of women’s status, both outside and within their families in developed countries. This paper has shown that the results from two national surveys in China, conducted in 2000 and 2006, reflected the stand of this paper by proving that women having lower fertility perform less housework and have also shown that they are satisfied with their status within their family compared to women having higher fertility.

The gender gap does not matter in educational attainment. Even after taking into consideration the education effect, this paper found no signs of gender gap in the occupational status attained by the respondents. However, from the perspective of the development policy, investments made in women along with the promotion of gender equality have been found to be effective methods of population control growth in developing countries. In comparison to this, this paper has found that in China, even a reduced fertility did not affect the status of women in matters of married life and family ties. These are perhaps a few among the many important, yet unintended, consequences arising out of the fertility decline syndrome in China and also in many developing countries.

Finally, this paper did not find any evidence to link a woman’s status within or outside of the family as well as in her workforce status, as was outlined in the analytic framework in Figure 1. This author is of firm opinion that women’s status improvement in this society is a complex concept, which encompasses many dimensions of our social fibre, including health, education, safety, freedom of movement and the ability to make own decisions and these exist at multiple levels the lifespan of humans. This author does acknowledge that the analysis attempted in this paper had limitations and were able to capture only a small yet the most tangible part of it. The author is positive that a future empirical research carried on in this field in China will be able to fill this void with the data collected from better designed surveys and improvised measures.

List Of References

Angang, H. (2012) China in 2020: A New Type of Superpower. Brookings Institution Press, Washington DC.

Bhat, P.N.M. and Zavier, A.J.F. (2005) “Role of Religion in Fertility Decline.” Economic & Political Weekly, 40(5), 385-402.

Bond, M.H. (ed). (2010) The Oxford Handbook of Chinese Psychology. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Cai, F. (ed). (2014) Chinese Research Perspectives on Population and Labor. BRILL, Amsterdam.

Cai, Yong. (2008) “An Assessment of China’s Fertility Level Using the Variable-r Method.” Demography 45, no. 2: 271-281.

Cai, Yong. (2010) “China’s Below-Replacement Fertility: Government Policy or Socioeconomic Development?” Population and Development Review 36, no. 3: 419-440.

Cole, J. (2003) Geography of the World’s Major Regions. Routledge, London.

China Development Research Foundation. (2014) Demographic Developments in China

Routledge Studies on the Chinese Economy. Routledge, Oxon.

Hu, A. (2006) Economic and Social Transformation in China: Challenges and Opportunities. Routledge, Oxon.

Kravdal, (2007) “Effects of current education on second- and third-birth rates among Norwegian women and men born in 1964: Substantive interpretations and methodological issues.” Demographic Research – Volume 17, Article 9, October, 211-246.

Available at https://www.demographic-research.org/Volumes/Vol17/9/.

Lo, C. (2017) Demystifying China’s Mega Trends: The Driving Forces That Will Shake Up China and the World. Emerald Group Publishing, London.

Logan, J. (2011) Urban China in Transition. John Wiley & Sons, West Sussex. 

Lutz, W. (2013) The Future Population of the World: What Can We Assume Today. Routledge, Oxon.

OECD. (2010) Economic Surveys: China 2010. OECD Publishing, Paris.

 World Bank. (2008) World Development Indicators. Available at www.esds.international.