Parents who got fired for violating China’s one-child policy want their jobs back

Hey, where’d my salary go?
Hey, where’d my salary go?
Image: Reuters/Damir Sagolj
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Over the course of China’s decades-long one-child policy, many parents were punished financially or physically for birthing two or more kids. But that policy is over. Now, a group of government employees who lost their jobs for violating it are demanding their positions back.

Thirty-two former government employees have petitioned Beijing’s State Council demanding authorities let them go back to work. The petitioners, most of them teachers, all claim that they were fired after having more than one child. Because the policy has been revoked, they argue, they deserve to be re-hired.

Their appeal calls for the nation to “re-examine our contribution in alleviating the pressure of an aging population and to revoke the decision to take away our jobs as public institution employees,” according to the South China Morning Post (paywall).

The cases of the petitioners are not frivolous. One of the petitioners, according to Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao, was a Korean teacher (link in Chinese) from the Shandong province with a master’s degree. Now 47, she became pregnant in 2008, but claims she could not get an abortion because of her health. After giving birth, she was fined 100,000 yuan (about US$15,000) and was fired in 2011. She now works at a supermarket and as a substitute teacher.

Beijing revoked the one-child policy in October 2015, more than three decades after instituting it. Authorities ended it in order to stave off the country’s aging population—though it might be too late for that.

Authorities enforced the policy through means ranging from light fines to forced abortion. But it was not uncommon for families to raise a secret child or two.

“Petitioning” is a form of issuing grievances in China wherein people from all over the country head directly to Beijing and issue complaints to a central government bureau, in hopes of getting a legal case accepted in a state-level court.

Mei Fong, author of One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment, thinks the petitioners will probably not see their cases go to trial.

William Nee, a China researcher at Amnesty International, agrees: ”Unfortunately there are millions— perhaps even hundreds of millions—of people who have been victimized by China’s family-planning apparatus,” he tells Quartz. “While it wouldn’t be too surprising to see some isolated cases of officials who were fired due to having two children perhaps get their jobs back, I wouldn’t expect to see a comprehensive policy aimed at redressing the historic injustices caused by this policy. China has been very loath to deal with large-scale historical issues.”