Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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China's One-Child Policy Gave Birth To 13 Million Unregistered Children

Chinese children

(Photo : Reuters) Kindergarten students eat lunch at the Century Park in Shanghai October 23, 2014.

China's one-child policy aims to prevent a widespread economic crash by gaining control over China's booming population.

While many applauded the policy for slowing down China's rapid population growth, it was also widely criticized for several reasons.  Not only it failed to stop couples from having more than one child, it has also increased the number of abortions and at the same time, created 13 million unregistered children.

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Based on China's 2010 census, 13 million children were undocumented, meaning they did not have a proof of identity known as the hukou (household registration).  That document is necessary for children to have access to education and a lot more of other benefits.  Most if not all of these children were results of parents that had broken the 'one-child policy.' 

But population officials say, this figure could still go up, assuming that not all parents admitted having more than one child.

Every undocumented Chinese individual would want to be registered to gain an identity in his own country.  Upon registration, a child is added into a family or work unit's hukou booklet, and entered into a digital database. This will give a person access to ID card, an essential document common to employment, travel, marriage and state welfare.

The hukou is also a requirement for children to access education.  Essentially, a person's life is documented through the hukou system.

Violation of the one-child policy, does not automatically make a child undocumented.  Children who are denied of birth registrations are those whose parents were not able to pay the fine for having another child without permission.

But settling those fines is another tough issue for parents to deal with.  A perfect example would be Ms. Li, a Beijing resident who has an 8-year-old undocumented son.  The child has been denied of hukou, not only because he is a second child, but he was also born out of wedlock.  Li was fined a hefty US$50,300 fine, that, with her US$300-monthly salary, would be impossible for her to pay. 

Until that amount is settled with the local government, her child will remain undocumented, with no chance of gaining access to education.

The amount of fines depends on the discretion of local officers and the parent's income.  But some officers impose fines that parents are unable to afford.  In such cases, these parents face repeated short-term detention, while others allow their assets to be seized.

Given this situation, parents of undocumented children scramble to pay for the huge fines to ensure their children gain an identity - most of them do so before their child's sixth birthday, the age at which they enter school.

Since 2010, things slowly changed in China, which include easing of the controversial one-child policy.

In 2013, couples were allowed to have two children, on condition one of the parents was an only child. 

Despite the easing, the law has already made its impact, with some critics saying, it is now hurting the elderly who rely on children for support during old age.

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