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Is population control policy relevant in China, Singapore and Malaysia?
During the International Conference on Family Planning Program in 1965, it has been stated that ‘since 1960, the population problem and the initiation of action towards its solution have become matters of increasing public interest'. The statement shows that most countries in the world have realized since decades that the family planning program is important and should be well monitored. Some have already proceeded with the national policies on population, while some are still doing pilot project on the policies. In some ways the policy can be seen as a good problem solving methods as it helps to reduce the fertility rates, but there are some issues on the humanities right towards the citizens. The question is whether it is still relevant to be practiced in this century or not. Through this essay I will discuss on the policies practice by three different countries which is China, Singapore and Malaysia in order for me to decide what I believe the policies future should be.
In 1970's, the residents of China citizen has rapidly grown to approximately one third from the world's population who were occupying just 7 percent of world's cultivable land (Hesketh,T.&Xing,Z.W.,2005). Chinese government saw strict population control as essential to economic reform and to an improvement in living standards. Thus, the one-child policy has been applies in 1979. The one-child rule applies to a minority of the population which is the urban residents and government employees, the policy is strictly enforced, with few exclusions. The exclusions include families in which the first child has a disability or both parents work in high-risk occupations or they also come from one-child families. In rural areas, where almost 70 percent of the people live, a second child is allowed after five years gap, but this condition sometimes applies only if the first child is a girl but mostly the traditional preference is to have a boy. A third child is allowed among some ethnic minorities and people under populated areas. The policy is supported by a system of rewards and penalties including economic incentives for fulfilment and substantial fines, arrogation of belongings, and dismissal from work for negative response.
Singapore chose not to resist the citizens from having large families. The extension of the fertility policy from time to time is a one of the ways in resolving the problems and weaknesses. Singapore leaders have the idea that they cannot change the nature, but they can help by nurture the generations without limiting the population. The turning point came in the mid-1980s after about a decade of below-replacement level fertility. The force must have been the results of the 1980 census, which showed that the better-educated women were not replacing themselves while the lower educated “over-reproduced”. The better-educated women were, moreover, more likely to remain single. As the result, on 1 March 1987, the then First Deputy Prime Minister and current Prime Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong announced the replacement of the two-child policy which had been in effect since 1972 with the “three, or more if you can afford it” policy, together with a package of procreation incentives (Yap,M.T.,2003). These incentives have been modified and added on to over the years, most recently with the government giving out “baby bonuses” for second and third births and picking up the tab for paid maternity leave for third births.
Similarly, Malaysia practiced the New Population Policy that aim to increase the size of overall population. In September 1982, the Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, surprised many when he openly expressed the economic advantages of a larger population base and stated that, given the country's resources could support a population of 70 million, or about five times the size of the 1982 population (Govindasamy, P. &DaVanzo, J., 1992). A five-child family norm was completely approved by the Prime Minister, who publicly exhorted parents to "go for five." In support of this, maternity benefits, previously limited to the first three children, were extensive to the fourth and fifth child. Malaysia is a multiracial country consists of three main races and since mid 1970's the gap between Malay and non-Malay is widened but the rate were not large enough to offset the ethnic differences in the country. Not just that, the ethnic groups also differs in socioeconomic status and demographic characteristics that could be explained in fertility. So, through the incentives given in the New Economic Policy was formulated to reduce economic inequality in Malaysia, by helping to improve the socioeconomic status of Malays. Although it was not a population policy problem, it appears to have had an appreciable effect on desired fertility among the three main ethnic groups.
While all of these policies are being practiced, there are many advantages and disadvantages occur from time to time. As for the China one-child policy, even though there are many opinions said that the government don't have any right to decide the fertility rate for the citizens, but it is actually for the better future of the country. Hesketh et al (1997) stated that ‘China is controlling its population is clearly of benefit for the whole world as natural resources per capita diminish.' It can be said the Chinese government had decided on a good solutions for their limited resources in future. For example, if the population is over grown, it will reduce the availability of resources and job opportunity that will lead to unemployment and poverty. Besides that, the one-child policy also offers increase benefits for the children and mothers as the increased resources will be devoted for them, so they will not feel left behind. As for the mothers, they will have more freedom to earn a living for the family. There were a slogan for a campaign mentioned that "With two children you can afford a 14 inch TV, with one child you can afford a 21 inch TV"; and "The One Child Family Policy can guarantee that children will be better cared for and educated." (Hesketh et al, 1997). Since 1979, the policy has shown it significance in helping the country's economic stability for more than 30 years and it already becoming a culture for them in having small family.
On the other hand, Singapore and Malaysia should not have any population control policy as it brings no difference at all. The reason is there are no economic or resources restriction in their country. It can't be denied that if the population is not control, it will lead to ethnicity imbalance but population control is not the only way to overcome the problem. There are still other ways such as outlining new ethnic policy or incentives for the citizens. The labour force problem in Singapore can be a good reason why Singapore should not have any population control as according to Yap (2003), ‘Since the 1980s, Singapore has been relaxing its immigration policy to facilitate the entry of a growing number of qualified foreigners to work and live in the country to make up for the shortfall in births and to meet labour force need.' Similarly, the Prime Minister of Malaysia was confident that the country economic condition can support over 70 million citizens up to 115 years ahead.(Govindasamy, P., & DaVanzo, J.,1992). Therefore, there is no acceptable need for the population policy in both countries.
All in all, although there are many differences in each of the countries' policies, the main goal is to control the fertility rates that are equivalent with the socioeconomic situation. In my opinion, the one-child policy in China is relevant, but not in Malaysia and Singapore. Clearly, the population in China need to be controlled as the resources available in the country are decreasing and limited. So, it is without doubt that I believe the population control is strongly relevant for China but not for Singapore and Malaysia.