Yang Er Fang Lao

By Halla B.

Traditional Chinese culture involves many short sayings that represent ideals of life.  One of these is “yang er fang lao”, or the idea that a family should have many children to take care of the parents in their old age.  Traditionally, a couple’s retirement pension were their children.  However, the concept of “yang er fang lao” must be modified or rejected because of the incredible strain it places on children in today’s society.

First of all, China’s One Child Policy completely contradicts the idea behind Yang Er Fang Lao.  Part of the concept of Yang Er Fang Lao is having lots of children to help out with farmwork and taking care of the family.  Additionally, since families are only allowed to have one child, this one child bears the entire burden of taking care of the parents and the grandparents with no siblings to help him or her.  This problem is often called the 4-2-1 problem—there are four grandparents, two parents, and one child to support them all.  Supporting other people requires lots of time and money, time and money which an only child may not have.  The One Child Policy effectively negates Yang Er Fang Lao.

Another problem with Yang Er Fang Lao is that children today usually do not live with their families for their entire lives.  In the old days in the countryside, a family’s children would stay with the parents and help with farmwork and housework and then take care of the parents in their old age.  However, nowadays many children go to a different city or even a different country for college.  In China, it is popular for kids to travel to America or Europe for university.  They will often stay and start new lives in places far from home.  When their parents grow old, they do not want to give up their own lives, work, and friends to go back to their birth home to take care of their parents.  Additionally, it is hard to take care of people from far away.  Clearly, Yang Er Fang Lao has become impractical and burdensome to the products of the One Child Policy.

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