Reports that China is considering backing off its notorious one-child-per-couple policy in the next five years may have more to do with a social imbalance—too many men, too few women—rather than global economics.
The move would end a three decade old policy and allow Chinese couples to officially have more than one child, something experts say is needed in the years ahead.
"Some 22 million Chinese men won't be able to marry in the next 10 years or so because there aren't enough women," says Susan Greenhalgh, a professor of Anthropology at UC Irvine and author of a book on China's one child policy.
"All these unmarried men scare Chinese officials," Greenhalgh goes on to say. "They become 'sex starved bachelors' in the minds of officials, on the prowl disrupting the social order. And social order is very important there."
That social order has already been disrupted, says Clayton Dube of the U.S.—China Institute in Los Angeles, California.
"The people who won’t be able to marry are poor rural men," Dube says. "This has created kidnapping and other problems. Families have adopted girls at the age of three to raise them with their sons in order to get them married."
While the possible change in policy may be to address the younger age range, it's also aimed at the economics of the country's older population. According to the U.S.-China Institute, some 300 million Chinese will be over the age of 65 in the next 10-20 years, and there won't be enough young people to care for them.
"There's a shrinking pool of workers to provide financially for the elderly," says Dube. "This would help ease the pain. China needs to generate 20 million jobs a year to help the elderly, and they need people to fill those jobs."