The end of China’s one-child policy, which resulted in forced abortions and sterilizations for millions, has triggered a new crisis: parents are struggling to schedule medical appointments for their children due to the severe lack of pediatricians to address the population surge.
The Chinese government is being open about its struggles to accommodate families with two children. An infographic in the state-run Global Times notes that the nation has about one doctor for every 2,000 children, a significantly lower ratio than most developed countries. The Times notes that pediatricians tend to have an average workload 68 percent heavier than other specialist doctors, while earning half the salary. Beijing is looking to increase the wages of doctors to attract more to the profession now that the demand for children’s specialists is skyrocketing.
Xinhua, another state-run outlet, announced last week that the Chinese communist government is implementing a plan to reduce the ratio of doctors to children to one doctor for every 1,500 children, closer to the ratios in nations like the United States and Japan. The announcement noted that a recent survey found that up to 70 percent of parents have complained about the difficulties of receiving adequate medical care for their children. The article did not specify how the government is looking to address the problem.
The pediatric crisis is a natural progression of what Chinese hospitals began reporting earlier this year: hospital maternity wards are significantly overwhelmed by the number of women choosing to have a second child now that the government has legalized it. In March, Beijing’s Health and Family Planning Commission announced that it expected maternity wards to receive two million more children by the end of 2016. For pregnant women, the boom has meant having to share hospital rooms and even doctors with other women in labor at the same time. The bed and doctor shortage has also caused many to fear an increase in the number of infections or a shortage of necessary medication.
For decades, the Chinese government imposed a strict one-child policy, limiting families to only one child. The government enforced the policy through millions of forced abortions and sterilizations of both men and women. In 2015, Beijing announced that it would allow couples to have two children legally, a move attributed to fears within the government that the population had become too elderly, and the one-child policy had dramatically reduced the number of baby girls born and threatened the population generally.
Critics note that a two-child policy is little better than a one-child policy. “Couples will still have to have a birth permit for the first and the second child, or they may be subject to forced abortion,” Reggie Littlejohn, president and founder of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, told Breitbart News in October. She noted that the two-child policy did not limit the ability of the Chinese government to impose birth control, abortions, or sterilization on couples should a woman get pregnant a third time.
As recently as 2012, China forced an estimated 20 million women to have abortions to avoid violating the one-child law.
In addition to threatening the advancement of a healthy population number, the one-child policy had resulted in a large, unknown number of children known as heihaizi, or “black children”: second children born illegally and kept out of the sight of the Chinese government. Heihaizi are denied government identification numbers, birth certificates, and other documentation necessary to go to school, work, see a doctor, or get married. They are denied a public identity and often live in poverty. While the government has a legalization process for them, the documentation is too costly for many families.