China’s Birth Control Policies and the Rest of Us

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In my last posting, I wrote that the Chinese Communist Party has announced they are ending their "One-Child" policy.  The policy, that had been in force since the 1970's, restricted parents to one baby per household.  Going forward they will allow two.

The "One-Child" policy successfully blunted China's birth rate and resulted in some true benefits.  It also resulted in some unintended consequences; some of which have had an impact on those who produce products in China.

Consider these points:

  • In any country,  a generation that grows up with no siblings is a very spoiled generation.  China now has  a work force that has grown up nurtured (some say spoiled) by parents and grandparents who have fewer children upon which to focus their love.  
  • In addition, they are a generation that has not had to contend with the dynamics of having to deal with older or younger siblings.  Imagine a work force filled with only children.  
  • Because families are smaller and more affluent, children are graduating from college and looking for white collar jobs.
  • Workers are far less willing to move away from home in order to live in a factory dormitory hundreds of miles away.

Bottom line, today's Chinese young adult worker is fewer in numbers and expects more then prior generations.  Because they are fewer in numbers, have aspirations and are less willing to work, there  are fewer workers available to fill toy factories and that puts upwards pressure on wages and sometimes plays havoc with production planning.

The change in the law will certainly result in more workers but it will of course take a generation.  And they in turn will come to the workplace with their own unique world view.

So in the meantime, when we think about China and its workforce, we need to stop seeing them as an amorphous group of workers knocking out toys.  Rather they each individuals with unique dreams trying to work their way through a world that provides new challenges every day.  This is the today's Chinese worker. 

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