Demographic Transition, Changes of Women's Family Relations During 40 Yrs of Reform, Opening-up

December 7, 2018
Editor: Xie Wen
Women learn flower arrangement after work. [Xinhua]


In the past 40 years of China's reform and opening-up drive, the family planning policy has had a profound impact on the family and has generated the transformation of family relations toward equal rights for men and women and intergenerational equality.

The country's demographic transition is basically synchronized with the reform and opening-up, showing an extremely rapid rate of transformation.

In a way, it indicates that the country has experienced the first demographic transformation in 40 years, and also the second demographic transformation in some large and medium cities, which affects China's population size and structure, as well as the changes in family life and family relations dominated by tending functions.

It is the result of the role of social public policy, which, accordingly, also calls for the support of public policies.

The total fertility rate, and the average number of children each woman has in the country was 5.81 in 1970, when China began to implement the "family planning" policy. By the fifth population census in 2000, the rate was reduced to 1.23, which freed women from heavy reproductive labor and child-rearing labor, and has greatly reduced the cost of childbearing for married women both in urban and rural areas.

Therefore, women are allowed to engage in their chosen jobs and careers with more time and energy, and are more capable of determining their own affairs, which has significantly increased their independence.

After the implementation of the universal "two-child" policy, the total fertility rate may increase to between 1.6 and 1.9.

Smaller Families Reduce Housework

According to the third census data in 1982, China's average family had 4.41 members. Under the "two-child" policy, the number was reduced to 3.10 in 2015, which led to less household chores. With the improvement of social living conditions, the total amount of household chores will also be further decreased.

According to data from the survey of Chinese Women's Social Status (CWSS), the household labor hours for urban women in 1990 were 223 minutes per day, but it was decreased by 53 minutes in 2010; and even by 100 minutes during the period from 1990 to 2010 in rural areas.

Despite complex and diverse factors that affect the reduction of time spent on housework, the reduced family size undoubtedly effectively decreases the amount of domestic work.

Family Planning Policy Helps Improve Women's Education

The realization of the education of children hinges on the status of family resources and the distribution of family resources to a certain extent.

The implementation of the family planning policy has greatly changed the gender model of resource allocation within the family. As a result, women have the access to education, which reflects women's educational improvement and the increased women's human capital at the social level.

According to the data of the CWSS, the average number of years of education for urban women has been on the increase. In 1990, the average length of education for women was 7.8 years, and this had risen to 9.8 years by 2010; whilst for rural women this had also increased from 4.7 years in 1990 to eight years in 2000.

This article is contributed by Tong Xin, professor from the Department of Sociology of Peking University.

(Source: Translated and edited by Women of China)

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