Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 31–68 | Cite as

China’s family planning policies and their labor market consequences

  • Fei Wang
  • Liqiu Zhao
  • Zhong Zhao
Original Paper


China initiated its family planning policy in 1962 and its one-child policy in 1980, and it allowed all couples to have two children as of 1 January 2016. This paper systematically examines the labor market consequences of China’s family planning policies. First, we briefly review the historical evolution of China’s family planning policies and the existing literature. Second, we investigate the effects of these policies on the labor market, focusing on the size and quality of the working-age population and its age and gender composition. We give special attention to regional differences in the demographic structure resulting from the interaction of the family planning policies and internal migration. Finally, we discuss ongoing and prospective policy changes and their potential consequences. Although urban areas and coastal provinces have implemented stricter family planning policies, our analysis shows that because of internal migration, the aging problem is more severe in rural areas and in inland provinces. Our simulation results further indicate that the new two-child policy might fall short of pulling China out of its aging situation.


Family planning policy One-child policy Aging Migration 

JEL Classification

J13 J11 J21 J61 



We would like to thank the editor, Klaus Zimmermann, for his guidance and thank three anonymous referees and participants at a seminar at Peking University and Workshop on: Innovation, Trade and Wages in the East Asia Time Zone hosted by Kobe University for their constructive comments. All views and the remaining errors are the authors’ alone.

Compliance with ethical standards


Liqiu Zhao acknowledges financial support from the Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 71403286) and the Center for Labor Economics and Public Policy at Zhejiang University. Zhong Zhao acknowledges financial support from the Special Fund for Building World-Class Universities and Disciplines through the Renmin University of China (grant no. 16XNL005).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Labor and Human ResourcesRenmin University of ChinaBeijingChina

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