Toronto : The new universal two-child policy in China could be negatively affecting women’s status and gender equality, according to a study.
Since China ended its one-child policy allowing all families to have up to two children, an additional 90 million women have become eligible to have a second child, researchers said. They found that women with less marital power – shaped by their relative income, resources and education – had lower “fertility autonomy” and were likelier to succumb to pressure to have a second child even if they did not want to.
“When husbands have greater marital power, fertility pressure from the husband increases the likelihood that women intend to have a second child, despite the fact that they have achieved their desired fertility,” said Yue Qian, an assistant professor at University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada, reports PTI.
“In contrast, when women have greater power in a marriage, their second-birth intentions do not change with levels of fertility pressure from their husbands,” said Qian, lead author of the study published in the journal Chinese Sociological Review. Using 2016 survey data, the researchers examined the fertility intentions of women who wanted no more than one child and already had one.
Women were asked to indicate who had the greater power in their families: the husband or wife. They found that self-reported power levels correlated to which spouse had more material resources, income and education, which in turn affected women’s ability to stop having children when they no longer wanted any more children.
The findings have far-reaching implications for gender equality in urban China since motherhood is a major contributor to the gender pay gap, said Qian. Unlike Canada and many European countries that have generous family-friendly policies to encourage fertility and facilitate work-family balance, the Chinese government no longer provides welfare benefits such as childcare subsidies or publicly funded kindergartens, researchers said.
As a result, employment rates and earni