Female Empowerment and Economic Growth: Lessons from China 👩💼🇨🇳
China's One Child Policy: A Catalyst for Economic Surge and Female Empowerment, Offering Key Insights for Nations like India. Dive into how this policy reshaped a society.
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When we discuss global economic development, the extraordinary growth of China is often a focal point. During the period from 2000 to 2005, China’s annual per capita GDP growth rate was 8.1 percent, starkly outpacing India's 4.8 percent. This disparity raises an intriguing question: What factors contributed to China's remarkable economic trajectory, and how can these lessons be applied elsewhere?
Some key drivers of China's growth include early economic reforms, a focus on manufacturing and exports, a unique political system, robust infrastructure development, and integration into the global economy. However, a critical, often overlooked factor is the role of women, particularly in the context of China's One Child Policy.
On my recent trip to China, I learnt this from my professor- Dr. Fang Yu and I quizzed a dozen of my friends in China amongst whom only 2 could get it right.
The One Child Policy: A Catalyst for Female Empowerment
Implemented in 1979, the One Child Policy aimed to control China's booming population, perceived as a hindrance to economic growth and improved living standards. But a lesser-discussed outcome of this policy was its profound impact on women's roles in society and the economy.
Under this policy, many parents, regardless of whether they had a son or daughter, poured their resources into ensuring their only child had access to the best possible opportunities. This shift led to increased educational and professional opportunities for women.
一箭双雕 or Yi Jian Shuang Diao, which means kill two birds with one stone! I think One Child Policy contributed to China’s economy in a similar way!
Increasing Female Workforce Participation
As of 2022, over 60% of females were active in the labor force in China, a significant contrast to the 30% observed in India. This high rate of female labor force participation has been a key contributor to China's rapid economic growth, illustrating how empowering women can lead to broader economic prosperity.
Education: The Pathway to Empowerment
The One Child Policy also indirectly led to more women pursuing higher education. Female enrolment in tertiary education in China grew from about 1.5% in 1978 to over 40% by the 2010s. Specifically, the stricter fertility policies during teenage years induced higher female educational attainment, which in turn led to higher female labor force participation, non-manual occupation, and delayed marriage and childbearing. This expansion of educational opportunities for women paved the way for greater career choices and economic independence.
Empowerment and Autonomy: Beyond the Workforce
This policy not only enhanced women's roles in the workforce but also fostered a sense of empowerment and autonomy. With fewer children to care for, women had more opportunities to focus on personal and professional growth, contributing significantly to the economy. In fact, women contribute to 41% of China's GDP!
The She Economy: A Consumption Boom
The rise of independent women in China has led to a significant consumption boom.
Women account for over 70 percent of household purchases in China, encompassing a wide range of goods including luxury items, consumer products, and online shopping. This significant share indicates the powerful role women play in domestic consumption patterns.
Consumption for Personal Needs
A study by JD.com revealed that in 2021, 54 percent of women’s consumption was for their own needs rather than for their families. This shift towards personal consumption includes sectors such as luxury items, education and training, tourism, and health services.
Annual Spending Power
Female annual spending in China was expected to reach around USD 1.2 trillion by 2022, a clear indication of their substantial economic influence. Women are responsible for three-quarters of household purchasing decisions, underscoring their pivotal role in shaping market trends and consumer behaviours.
Looking Ahead: Embracing Female Empowerment
The lessons from China’s experience are clear. Empowering women goes beyond mere inclusion in the workforce; it involves ensuring equal access to high-paying professions and educational opportunities.
In India, a preference for male children is prevalent among many parents, leading to a cycle where families continue to have children until a son is born. This practice not only results in higher birth rates but also leads to a disproportionate allocation of resources towards male children. This inequality is evident in various spheres, including education and employment opportunities. To unlock India's full economic potential, a paradigm shift is needed. We must take inspiration from China's journey, understanding the crucial role of women's empowerment. It's essential to not just include women in the workforce but also to provide equitable access to high-paying professions.
China's implementation of the One Child Policy, though aimed at controlling population growth, came with its set of challenges. The cultural preference for male children led to practices like sex selection and abortion. Despite being banned, these practices prevailed, particularly in southern provinces where the policy's enforcement was weaker. Consequently, China experienced a skewed sex ratio of 104.6 males to every 100 females. This imbalance is a stark reminder of the unintended consequences of such demographic policies.
The One Child Policy significantly influenced China's demographic profile, leading to an aging population with the average age reaching 37 by 2020. Recognizing the challenges posed by an aging population, the Chinese government relaxed the policy in 2015, allowing families to have two children. However, changing societal norms and the increased cost of raising children have made it challenging to reverse the trend. This aspect of China's policy offers a valuable insight into the long-term economic impacts of population control measures and the critical role women play in the economy.
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