• Final Mile

Is the end of one-child policy, beginning of a new experiment?


As per the recent NY Times article, one of the biggest human experiment “One-Child Policy” has come to an end.

The policy came into effect in the 1970s as a response to the concern that the population growth was impeding economic growth. The reversal seems to be a response to a new problem – aging of the population.

The ethics and rationale behind such government interventions have been and will continue to be debated in the public policy and macroeconomic circles. But lets view this problem from a different lens – dealing with a wicked problem.

Ritter and Webber in this paper, were one of the first academicians who developed the theory of Wicked Problem. By definition, wicked problems are problems where defining the problem itself is a challenge. Therefore resolving such a problem becomes extremely difficult or even impossible. For example, was the growing population a cause or consequence of poor economic growth? What would have happened if the one-child policy had not come into effect?

The authors argue that wicked problems may not have immediate or ultimate solutions; instead, they may lead to a wave of consequences. In this case, aging of population in China.

With no end state to aim for, the approach then is to improve a situation instead of trying to resolve it. The challenge of how we define or measure improvement is also equally difficult. More often than not, it comes down to the team in charge of designing the solution to also determine the problem to resolve and the metrics to measure.

Some 40+ years ago, a team decided that curtailing the population growth is the problem to resolve. Today, a new team has decided to take a different direction to solve a new problem.

The New York times article indicates that this as an end to the earlier experiment. But from what we understand, it may just be a start of a new one with potentially new consequences.

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#behaviouraldesign #design #onechildpolicy #behaviour #wickedproblem #NewYorkTimes

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