China's two-child policy may exacerbate gender inequality

February 23, 2018, University of British Columbia

Since China ended its one-child policy 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.

"When have greater marital power, fertility pressure from the husband increases the likelihood that women intend to have a second child, despite the fact that they have achieved their desired fertility," said Yue Qian, the study's lead author and an assistant professor in the department of sociology. "In contrast, when women have greater power in a marriage, their second-birth intentions do not change with levels of fertility pressure from their husbands."

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.

"Our study suggests the two-child may exacerbate a vicious circle of gender inequality in post-reform China," Qian said. "Women's disadvantaged status in the labour market exacerbates inequalities in access to resources, and the fewer resources wives have relative to their husbands may diminish women's bargaining , their ability to push for equality in the family, and their ability to stop childbearing when they don't want additional children, which may in turn jeopardize women's careers."

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

Explore further: Research reveals gender inequity in tax and welfare systems

More information: Yue Qian et al, Women's Fertility Autonomy in Urban China: The Role of Couple Dynamics Under the Universal Two-Child Policy, Chinese Sociological Review (2018). DOI: 10.1080/21620555.2018.1428895

Related Stories

Research reveals gender inequity in tax and welfare systems

November 16, 2017

New research from The Australian National University (ANU) has provided the first in-depth look for 30 years at gender inequity Australia's tax and welfare systems, revealing the key factors contributing to Australia's gender ...

Recommended for you

Understanding urban issues through credit cards

August 20, 2018

Digital traces from credit card and mobile phone usage can be used to map urban lifestyles and understand human mobility, according to a report led by UCL, MIT and UC Berkeley.

Why war is a man's game

August 15, 2018

No sex differences in attitudes or abilities are needed to explain the near absence of women from the battlefield in ancient societies and throughout history, it could ultimately all be down to chance, say researchers at ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

mosahlah
5 / 5 (1) Feb 23, 2018
Baizuo have officially launched their attack. I kinda doubt postmodernist theory is going to fly far in formerly communist societies, much less autocracies, but perhaps they will teach us something with their response. Who knows marxist BS better than a communist?
rrwillsj
3 / 5 (2) Feb 24, 2018
mosahlah, my apologies but I failed to understand your comment. Could you please restate what points you were attempting to make?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.