01/11/2013, 00.00
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China's one-child policy undermining entrepreneurship and risk taking

Not only are single children spoilt, selfish and afraid of competition, but they also are less trusting and more risk-averse and reliable, important qualities in business. With its one-child policy, the government boasts that it has created prosperity, but this has come at a "huge political and social cost".

Beijing (AsiaNews) - China's one-child policy has produced adults who are more pessimistic, nervous, less conscientious, less competitive, more risk averse and less prone to choose an occupation that entails business risk, such as entrepreneur or a private firm manager, this according to a study published in the journal Science.

So far, it was clear that the one-child policy had harmed society's morality, creating spoilt selfish "little emperors" to whom everything was due. Now researchers in Australia found that the one-child policy has led to people who are less likely to take risks in business or get into business.

Using surveys of 421 men and women in Beijing and testing their skills in economic games, researchers in Australia found those born after the 1979 policy were less likely to lend money or to give it back, showing less trust or trustworthiness.

According to the researchers, behaviour in economic games correlates with the way people act outside the experimental setting, the researchers said, with implications for the wider society.

They cited previous studies that showed Chinese farmers that took more risk in experimental games were more inclined to adopt new technologies and use less pesticide, whilst borrowers in Peru found more trustworthy in trust games had a greater likelihood of repaying loans.

The findings are no surprise to Zou Hong of the School of Psychology at Beijing Normal University. "Only children in Chinese families are loved and given almost everything by their families and they can get resources at home without competition," she said. "Once they enter society, they are no different from other people. Having been overly protected, they feel a sense of loss and show less competitiveness."

The Chinese government credits the one-child policy with preventing 400 millions of births and helping lift countless families out of poverty. However, the same policy has been enforced rigidly and with violence, including forced abortions and sterilisations. Couples who flout the rules face hefty fines, seizure of their property and loss of their jobs.

Last year, a government think tank urged China's leaders to start phasing out the policy and allow two children for every family, saying the country had paid a "huge political and social cost"

The policy, it said, had resulted in social conflict, labour shortages in cities and long-term gender imbalance because of illegal abortions of female foetuses by parents who cling to a traditional preference for a son.

Government figures indicate that at least 100 million families have only one child in a country with a population of 1.3 billion people.

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