Chinese Female Education and Low Natality Rates in China Connection

Senior (College 4th year) ・Sociology ・APA ・12 Sources

This study explores the possible connections between the decreasing birth rate in China and Chinese women's education. In the recent past, China has had very low birth rates, commonly known as fertility rates, and this abnormality has caused multiple population growth crises across the country. National tax economic uncertainty and inflation were among the most infamous implications of China's low fertility. Since children are smaller and smaller, hardly anyone is enrolled in schools. Nobody is able to graduate from those schools and participate in the workforce of the country. This has, in turn, greatly decreased the country’s GDP as well as revenues. Countries are now, more than ever, encouraging more immigrants to move to their land just to ensure that their national population does not drop further than it already has (Becker & Posner, 2013). These low birth rates have had most impact in regions such as Japan, Poland, Canada, Western Europe, Russia, and China.

According to Kaufman (2016), China currently holds first place in having the lowest birth rates in the globe. The current Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in China is only 1.05% after being at a peak of 6.1% in the periods between 1950 and 1955 (United Nations, 2011). It was originally thought that the drastic drop in China’s fertility rates was thanks to the one-child policy that had been enforced in the country in the year 1978. The state of China imposed this policy in a bid to regulate the population size that was bulging at an alarming rate at that period. At the time, the country was experiencing numerous setbacks thanks to the overpopulation of its residents. There was an extremely high natality rate at the time as a result of the improved healthcare system as well as adequate food provision (Jianzhang & Wenzheng, 2016). The aftereffect of the overpopulation was, however, detrimental to the economic stamina of the nation. The economy was being overly strained to fully provide for the people and this brought several complications such as poor housing, unemployment, as well as overconsumption of limited resources e.g. fossil fuels, land, and clean water. Implementation of the one-child policy seemed to be the only feasible solution for these crises at the time.

The one-child policy may have had some impact on the decreasing natality in China; however, it was not the main aggravating force behind the lessening number of births in the region. Further research and analysis into this field has revealed that the advancement of female education, status, and women empowerment for females in China is the main force behind the country’s lesser-than-average birth rates and decreasing population size. Wu, Ye, and He (2014) allege that the Chinese female education and enhanced status in the society is the cause factor for fertility decline and too few births. Wu et al. (2014) conducted a research study to investigate the correlation between Chinese female education and the declining natality in China. The end results of their study confirmed this correlation and concluded that Chinese women today prefer having fewer children because they will have lesser house chores to do in addition to making sure that she can comfortably provide for a smaller family rather than a bigger family which consumes more resources.

Another study conducted by Lan and Kuang (2016) also affirmed that enhancing female education has subsequently caused the birth rates in China to drop. The study claims that there is an apparent trade-off between Chinese female education and women’s desire to have children. As female education and economic empowerment increases, their desire and will to give birth to many children decreases. The reason for this is because as more and more women advance their education, their status also advances as they are now more equipped to land high-profile careers and prestige in top government positions. Because of this, their focus is centered on achieving such economic prominence rather than settling and having many children - a thing which they believe diminishes their status in the family setting.

The main objective of this paper is to further these investigations and find out more about the Chinese female education and its impact on the country’s decreasing natality. Is there really a correlation between these two aspects of demography? How do they relate with each other? The paper seeks to substantiate if really the declining natality in China is attributable to the progressing female education and women empowerment rather than the one-child policy.

1.2 Significance of the Study

The current study aims to explore the correlation between the Chinese female education and the declining natality. Several scholars such as Wu et al. (2014), Kaufman (2016), Becker and Posner (2013), Pradhan (2015), Li, Jianlin, and Qiushi (2012), and Lan and Kuang (2016) all attest that female education and enhancement in women’s status are the chief reasons behind the declining birth rates in China, and not the one-child policy. These sources claim that the one-child policy has been misconstrued to be the main factor behind the lessening natality in the region. However, this is not the case because even after its abolishment, women still continue to have lesser children. When the issue was further explored, it was found out that the main reason behind the nation’s decreasing population and birth rates was because of the women’s attainment of education and status in the society. Women enjoy the prestige that comes along with attainment of education and can now exercise their rights as independent beings. The lack of education erases this sense of independence and awareness of their rights as equal partners in a family setting.

Conducting this study will help distinguish whether, for a fact, Chinese female education is the force behind the declining natality in China. If indeed it is, then the study will call upon the government and its key policymakers to provide amenities that will enable women in China merge their busy work schedules with their family needs. Providence of subsidized prenatal/postnatal care, free maternal services, paid maternity leaves, lesser taxes, and financial support for each child born will encourage educated women to bear more children since the main fear of having large families is due to the lack of enough funds. This will subsequently reduce the perils of China’s inflated fertility decline which has been causing several catastrophes for example a decreasing working class population as well as an expanding elderly population which is reliant on the inadequate social welfare (Nash, 2013). Lesser birth rates similarly reduce the number of able persons that are currently in the working industry. The lesser the working population, the lesser the per capita income and national GDP a country attains which in turn affects the availability of resources required to fund the elderly persons.

1.3 Research Questions

This study is driven by the following research questions:

i) Is there a relationship between Chinese female education and the declining natality in China?

ii) If yes, what are the forces behind this relationship?

iii) What is the effect of this relationship on the community?

iv) How best can this situation be improved?

1.5 Study Hypotheses

This section outlines the assumptions developed in this study. These assumptions consist of a null and alternative hypothesis as follows:

H0: There is no significant relationship between Chinese female education versus the declining natality rates in China.

Ha: There is a significant relationship between Chinese female education and the declining natality rates in China

The null hypothesis (H0) claims that there is no significant relationship between Chinese female education and the declining natality rates in China. It has been developed to posit that female education is not the cause factor of China’s declining natality rates. If the research analysis accepts this null hypothesis, it will be assumed that the natality in China is decreasing thanks to other outside factors such as the One-Child policy that had been previously enforced in the country. However, in the event that the null hypothesis is rejected, then the study will shift to the alternative hypothesis and declare that there is, indeed, a relationship between China’s female education and the declining natality rates.

1.6 Methods

The study will undertake a quantitative survey questionnaire that will be administered to 300 Chinese women. The questionnaires shall be issued via an online panel survey platform called the enquire China. The questionnaires shall feature in-depth questions touching on issues like fertility, marriage, educational levels, family sizes, and occupational achievements. The data results shall be analyzed by means of the IBM SPSS software; which will be used to compute a variety of analyses for example the descriptive statistics, the correlation analysis, as well as the regression statistics. The outcome of the analysis shall then form the answers to the aforementioned research questions and objectives.

1.7 Definition of Terms Used

1. ACWF - All-China Women's Federation

2. UN – United Nations

3. UNU - United Nations University

4. UNWDF - United Nations Women's Development Fund

5. UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

6. APDF - Asia-Pacific Development Center

7. UNCF - United Nations Children's Fund

8. AYEP - Assistance for Youth Employment Project

9. NPFPC- National Population and Family Planning Commission

10. PRC- People’s Republic of China

1.8 Structure of the Study

The rest of the study shall be organized into six further sections.

The second section will constitute of the Literature Review Chapter where the paper shall discuss the works of various scholars who have documented data relevant to this topic of Chinese female education and the declining natality rates. This review of literature shall form of the basis of the secondary data of this study. Secondary data is very crucial in a dissertation thesis because it serves as the reference point for the primary data collected during the methodology section (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2009).

The third section will comprise of the Methodology Chapter which will give a step-by-step procedure which the study will use to collect its primary data. The method used will be quantitative survey questionnaires which will feature questions touching on issues such as marriage, family sizes, fertility rates, educational attainment, and status achievement for women in China.

The fourth section will encompass the Findings & Discussions Chapter. Here, the data results/ responses from the questionnaires shall be outlined and rigorously analyzed using the IBM SPSS software. Various analyses will be carried out including the descriptive analyses, correlation analysis, as well as the regression statistics. Afterwards, the chapter shall interpret these data findings so as to derive meaningful information from them. The findings shall be triangulated with the secondary data from the literature review to see if they resonate or have any commonalities between them.

The sixth section shall entail the Conclusion Chapter. The conclusion section shall give a brief recap of the study, its review of the literature, methodology, and findings, and verify whether the paper has accomplished the aims and objectives it initially set out to do. There shall also be a mention of the limitations to the study as well as future recommendations.

Chapter 2. Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

This section constitutes the second chapter of the paper. It discusses past literature regarding Chinese female education and its impact/ connection to natality in China. The literature that is discussed herein is retrieved from many sources such as journal articles, books, peer-reviewed web documents, and statistic reports published by China’s state agencies like the Ministry of Health, the National Bureau of Statistics of China, as well as the Office for National Statistics. The chapter addresses core areas of interest such as background of female education in China, low natality rates in China, and reasons attributable for the correlation between China’s low natality rates and increasing female education.

2.2 Background on Female Education in China

As Gilmartin (1999) asserts, female education and women economic empowerment in China is a result of the rigorous social activism waged by the Chinese iconoclasts. Iconoclasm encompasses the social and political actions instigated by a group of revolutionaries whose chief objective is to campaign against suppressive bureaucracies and status quos (Dawson, 2001). China comprised of incredibly repressive warlords who imposed patriarchal cultures. These cultures discriminated women and girls denying them a formal education or paid employment; instead, the culture defined the female gender fit for inferior roles such as child bearers and unpaid care takers of a family’s children and husband. According to Lee (1995), women during the first half of the 1900s were regarded as secondary to men, and girls secondary to boys. Their needs came second after their brothers and husbands. The husband had so much an upper hand in the family that whatever he said goes and wife battering was a normal event. The suppression proliferated to sickening degrees that the women could no longer stomach it.

In the periods following the World War 1 (1915-1923), a group of iconoclasts established anti-Imperial marches as well as Communist alliances whose main aim was to campaign against this patriarchal culture and abolish the miseries experienced by women such as poor education quality, early marriages, and gender inequality between men and women. These revolutions formed the building blocks of the major transitions in women’s status and prominence in the society (Gilmartin, 1999). Formation of the Communist alliances later led to establishment of the Communist Party of China which women used as a front to champion for their own national liberation. Years later, the People’s Republic of China was founded in the year 1949. This new government redefined the rights, gender roles, and egalitarianism of Chinese women; at least now, women can freely participate in labor force and paid employment activities without fear of being reprimanded. The PRC was also very instrumental in eradicating illiteracy by instituting several literacy programs, evening classes, and schools which women workers could attend in their leisure time. Liu (2009) says that by the year 1958, women as many as 16 million had known how to read and write.

The need for promoting women’s education and eradicating gender equality was further endorsed by the United Nations conferences on women development (Information Office of the State Council, 1994). As Li et al. (2012) write, ever since the 1970s period, the United Nations have been very intent on advancing women’s empowerment and emancipation from gender discrimination and marginalization of equal education, employment, and civil participation. Since time immemorial, women have been on the receiving end of patriarchic cultures, which always patronize men at women’s expense. Women are battered at home and no one raises a finger against this; they are shunned away from political, economical, and even intellectual participation in the society yet both genders are equal. It was in the light of these oppressions that the UN hosted four concourses to press for gender equality and development for women all across the globe. The Fourth World Conference on Women was actually hosted in Beijing, China in September 1995. The session highlighted the poor status of women and girls in China and especially condemned the way the male-controlled society degraded and abased the female gender (Information Office of the State Council, 1994). It was this fourth session that mobilized the Chinese government to advance the cultural, legal, administrative, ideological, economic, and educational emancipation for women.

China’s government has picked up on this bandwagon and acted upon various initiatives to further gender equality and development for its women population. For example, the government has enforced of gender equality in its state policies and devised legislations that secure the civil and political rights of women (Li et al., 2012). The Chinese government has also instituted schools for women. Women are now freely admitted to schools; can progress to higher education institutions; are eligible for bestowal of undergraduate degrees; and can participate in scientific as well as technological research projects (Li, 1997). These educational advancements for women in China are monumental because the old China disregarded women as mere child bearers and not capable of getting a formal education. Unlike in the past, women are now being contracted for executive positions in large corporations and are enjoying social and economic prominence. The UN, through implementation of the Chinese government, has ensured that women receive a decent formal education and empowerment in all aspects of life. The modern-day educational institutions have been remodeled to enroll as many women as possible especially from impoverished regions of the country. As the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (2005) asserts, female enrollment for education is free thanks to the state intervention and efforts by the government to rid all obstructions that impede women from getting an education.


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Appendix A: Draft Proposal


Research Proposal


As National Bureau of Statistics of China (2012) reports, recent statistics show that female education has an impact on the natality rates in the contemporary society. Natality is the numerical quotient that compares the total quantity of live child births per every 1,000 people against the population size in a given country in each and every year; in other words, the birth rate (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2012). Numerous statisticians such as Lan and Kuang (2016) and Wu, Ye, and He (2014) decipher this anomaly of decreasing natality rates as a result of the increment of female education and women’s empowerment all over the globe. Wu et al. (2014) claim that the enhancement of women’s education has a ripple effect in restructuring the perceptions and mentality of women towards child birth and the idea of having large families. The family structure is evolving and taking a very different complex from what was there in the traditional days. The traditional family framework was quite large consisting of nearly 7 or 8 children (OECD, 2011), plus the father and mother. However, with the reinforcement of education institutions and the girl-child campaigns, the large family size has tremendously contracted, in the highest degree, to only one or two children, and sometimes even none (United Nations, 2003). As OECD (2011) reports, many states in the present-day have reported a drastic shrinkage in fertility rates over the recent years.

Low natality rates have, for a considerable length of time now, been a worrying concern in China. For a long time, China was once the topping country with regards to having the highest fertility rates in the globe (Anonymous, n.d.). According to Wanli (2014), the birth rate in China in the 1970s was as high as 4.77 births per woman. These statistics have dropped to only 1.64 births per woman as of the year 2011. The numbers continue to decrease with the years; the fertility rate in China as of the year 2015 was 1.05 only as reported by the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2012). Studies in this field demonstrate that this anomaly is no longer being caused by the one-child policy that was imposed by the Chinese government. As a matter of fact, the state is no longer rigid about the imposition of this one-child policy today as it was a few years ago. In fact, couples are now at liberty to have two children. Xiaofei (2012) claims that the directive was officially written off in the year 2013 when the state realized that the country had been recording a falling fertility rate for the past three decades. The write-off was implemented following a Communist party conference that was held in Beijing, China, where the delegates of the party discussed at length how the decrease in China’s birth rates was negatively affecting the country’s economy. Several aspects were addressed during the conference including how the low natality rates was reducing the skilled labor force as well as aggregating the financial burden of taking care of the increasing elderly population in the region. It was concluded in the summit that getting rid of the one-child policy would encourage couples to increase the number of child births hence build up the population size. Three years later however, the birth rates are still at rock bottom. Further analysis of this anomaly has brought forth evidence that the reducing natality rates in China is thanks to the advancement of the Chinese female education and no longer the one-child policy as formerly thought (Xiao-Tian, Dudley, & Xiao-Tao, 2014).

The issue of the advanced female education is largely considered as the cause factor of low natality rates not only in China, but all over the globe. Kinsella (2011) explains that the reason for this phenomenon is because when women are educated, they are equipped with profound decision making capacities that facilitate them to cognize the childbearing concept in a totally different way. Female education leads to women’s empowerment and, generally, a higher status for women. The traditional and somewhat archaic frame of mind dictating that women are generally created for childbearing purposes, cooking, cleaning, and staying at home to take care of the family is discarded. These states of mind are replaced by gender equality and professional development for women and girls alike. This change of attitude and perception towards women’s roles have been made possible by several initiatives such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP), and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) among many other movements (oecd, 2011). Since the inception of these initiatives, statistics illustrate that the world’s birth rates decrease with the development of the female education and professional growth of women and girls. The more prominent the female education is, the less likely she is to bear many children (Pradhan, 2015). Many studies have attributed various reasons for this eventuality. For example, Riley (2004) explains this eventuality by saying that bearing fewer children is viewed as a plus by women today; women simply translate that giving birth to fewer children will free up the resources that they may need to take care and provide for their families. Also, lesser children mean higher degrees of survival as well as better physical condition and well-being of the mother and the entire family. Other analysts, Lan and Kuang (2016) explain this anomaly by stating that women today prefer having lesser children because this, for them, means lesser house chores, cleaning, cooking, and family-related responsibilities that are only guaranteed with smaller sized families. Another reason for having small families is linked with the fact that daughters will have better opportunities of inheritance of the family property as well as better educational opportunities (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2012).

Literature Review

The peculiar low natality in China has been the central focus of study in a multitude of demographical studies. The reason for this is because it was originally believed that the decrement in China’s fertility rates was due to the enforcement of the one-child policy implemented by the state. Xiao-Tian et al. (2014) define the one-child policy as a state-imposed decree that functioned to regulate the population size that was bulging at an alarming rate in the 1970s. It was in the face of these calamities that the state moved to implement the one-child policy as a measure of regulating the massive population growth and curbing these disasters that had been brought on by overpopulation in the region (). The policy was hence inaugurated in the year 1976. The birth rates dropped and are almost at rock bottom. The minimal birth rates presented yet another calamity for the nation as the skilled labor force are diminishing leaving behind the ageing population (). Seeing this, the state yet again did away with the policy, in 2013, believing that it was the sole cause of the low natality and deteriorating economy. Shockingly enough, the birth rates and fertility statistics are still dwindling three years after the abolishment of the policy; the country’s economy is also under pressure as there is no longer an adequate labor force that is youthful and skilled enough to work and develop the economy. Extensive research into this irregularity revealed that although the one-child policy had a particular impact on the low natality in China, this impact was not as significant as the impact imprinted by the contemporary Chinese female education. Studies such as Lan and Kuang (2016) and National Bureau of Statistics of China. (2012) managed to show a linkage between the Chinese female education and the low natality trends over the past few years.

Research Questions

In an effort to demonstrate the linkage between low birth rates in China and the increased Chinese female education, this dissertation aims to answer the following research questions.

1. What is the correlation between China’s low birth rates and the education attainment of the Chinese women?

2. What are the effects of this correlation on the country?

3. How can these effects be prevented?


This dissertation study aims to incorporate survey questionnaires as its main data collection method. The questionnaires shall feature strategic questions targeting Chinese women and their take on the current birth rates trends in the country. The questions shall be qualitative allowing the participants to give their views and in-depth opinions concerning the low natality in China and its linkage to the Chinese female education; does the encouragement of the Chinese female education and women empowerment affect the birth rates in the region? What is the correlation between these two aspects? What can be done to prevent a further decrease of the Chinese birth rates? The questions shall be based on the prevailing tendencies of this anomaly as reported by the Ministry of Health, the National Bureau of Statistics, as well as the Office for national Statistics among other entities. The study shall also include an intensive documentary analysis which shall be used as an inference point for the analysis of the data results obtained from the questionnaires.

The entire research methodology shall take approximately two months to be completed. The researcher shall create the questionnaires and distribute them to Chinese women aged between 15 and 49 years. The questionnaires shall be distributed over an online survey platform known as SurveyMonkey. The questionnaires shall target Chinese women living in the Guangdong Province since this is the region that is most densely populated in China; has records of its natality rates declining beyond the replacement levels; and was the premier region in China to advocate for intense economic advancements (Lan & Kuang, (2016).


Ethical consideration is very fundamental in conducting a research project as it helps ensure that the research maintains integrity and professional value to the study participants and any other organizational entities involved. In compliance with the Research Governance and Ethics Policy of the UCL Institute of Education, I shall make sure to consider all ethical obligations towards the study respondents as well as the Chinese institutions involved in this dissertation study. All these ethical obligations shall be clearly outlined in a consent form that shall be signed between me, as a representative of the UCL Institute of Education, and the respondents. The signed form will allow voluntary participations of the respondents in the research study. The respondents may recall their participation at any moment they feel uncomfortable in being a party to the study. Their responses shall be nondescript for the purposes of privacy and confidentiality of their personal details; the nondescript responses shall be cached safely and only used for the intent of the study, and after that disposed in an appropriate manner. The study guarantees to rid off all potential risks to the respondents be it physical, emotional, psychological, or political. The most crucial ethical considerations of this research project is to implement integrity, professionalism in the conduct of the study and retrieval of data, to make sure that no mistreatment or abuse is impacted onto the respondents, as well as ensuring to gain their informed consent prior to and during the entire project.

Data Analysis

The data analysis that shall be incorporated in this study shall consist of a crosstab evaluation to survey the birth rate frequency per woman versus her educational level and job status. These two entities shall be correlated against each other using a two-tailed significance value of nearly 0 (Lan & Kuang, 2016). To perform this correlation test, the study will use the IBM SPSS analytical software to carry out a Pearson’s Chi squared test as well as a regression test on the values of the two entities mentioned above.


The anticipated outcome of this research project is to provide insights on the linkage between the low natality in China and the Chinese female education; and how strongly these two aspects are correlated. It is also hoped that through an intensive documentary analysis, the study shall provide recommendations on how to improve the natality rates in China to help prevent against further deterioration of the country’s economy.

Word Count: 2011.


Anonymous. (n.d.). World population and the empowerment of women. New York, NY: Reuters.

Kinsella, B. (2011). Secondary education for Females: A primary way to prevent overpopulation. Harvard College Global Health Review.

Lan, M., & Kuang, Y. (2016). The impact of women’s education, workforce experience, and the One Child Policy on fertility in China: a census study in Guangdong, China. Retrieved from

National Bureau of Statistics of China. (2012). Women and men in China: Facts and figures 2012. Retrieved from

OECD. (2011). Doing better for families: Families are changing. Retrieved from

Pradhan, E. (2015). The relationship between women’s education and fertility. World Economic Forum.

Riley, N. (2004). China’s population: New trends and challenges. Population Bulletin: A Publication of the Population Reference Bureau, 59(2), 4-36.

United Nations. (2003). Population, education, and development: The concise report. New York, NY: United Nations Publications.

Wanli, Y. (2014). Declining birthrate a cause for concern. Retrieved from

Wu, X., Ye, H., He, G. (2014). Fertility decline and women’s status improvement in China. Population Studies Center Research Report. University of Michigan. Retrieved from

Xiao-Tian, F., Dudley, L., & Xiao-Tao, W. (2014). China's one-child policy and the changing family. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 45(1), 17-29.

Xiaofei, L. (2012). China's one-child policy and implementation. Asia-Pacific Social Science Review,12(2), 1-13.

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