Did one-child policy work?

One of the highlights of China's new five-year plan is that the country will loosen its decades-long one-child population policy, which allows couples to have two children now. The one-child policy dates back to 1979, which aims to stabilize China's booming population. So has it worked?

When the one-child policy was first introduced, fertility rates in China had already been dropping. But China's population was already approaching one billion people. In 35 years, it has still grown, by roughly 40 percent.

By comparison, over four decades, India - another massively-populated country - saw ITS population nearly double.

China calculates that its one-child policy helped avert some 400-million births - more than the whole U-S population - and with it, potential strains on resources like education, the environment, and healthcare.

But, the policy has not been without controversy. Outside of China, many decried steep fines on larger families, and cited accusations of forced abortions.

In recent years, top government demographers started warning about the potential long-term social consequences of the policy: An aging population, without a younger generation to take care of it And, a gender imbalance: one man for every 1.2 women.

"This is the first step to try to increase or stabilize China's growth rate, because it does - strangely enough - need more people to do the jobs it needs to have done. But will that actually incentivize people to have more children, that's really the big big unknown," said Kerry Brown, director of King's College London Lau China Institute.

Despite an easing in the mid-1980s, for the most part, the policy has remained unchanged until 2013, when couples that included one only-child parent were allowed to have a second child. Thursday's announcement will extend that right to all couples.

Reaction on China's streets was mixed.

"If there's just one child, it won't have a companion. You'd just feel that you're alone at home all day," said a woman.

"It's too expensive to raise kids in China. I don't make enough money - I don't even have enough to spend on myself," a man said.

Cost seems to be a prevailing negative. Along with the fear of not being able to ensure their offspring's success.

"I think one of the issues really is that for economic reasons - like in Japan and in other countries where there's been a kind of falling population growth rate - and also for the sort of demographic reasons, people don't really want many kids," Kerry Brown said.

Having grown up in an over-populated country, many Chinese adults - now considering having children of their own- recall how hard it was to find work, to find a mate, to find a spot at a top university. Those memories continue to define their thinking. And though the policy may be changing, their minds might not be.

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