Losing an only child: the one-child policy and elderly care in China

Yu Song

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    China has had the one-child policy for more than 30 years. It reduced China's population growth within a short period of time and promoted economic development. However, it has also led to difficulties, and this paper focuses on those which pertain to ageing and losing one's only child. Approximately one million families have lost their only child in China. They suffer mentally and physically, and sometimes face social stigma and economic loss. What worries them most, however, is elderly care, which has become a severe crisis for the families who have lost their only children. This article draws upon several qualitative studies and 12 cases reported by the Chinese media in 2012 and 2013, and existing laws and policies for supporting those who have lost only children. It also analyses the current elderly care situation facing these families. The Chinese government has recognized the predicament and provides some help, which is increasing but is still not always adequate. To both sustain China's economic development and limit population growth, it is essential for the government to reform the one-child policy and provide a comprehensive support system for the families who have lost their only children, including financial relief and elderly care, and work to reduce stigma against these families.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)113-124
    JournalReproductive Health Matters
    Issue number43
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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