CHINA has today scrapped its controversial 'two child' policy and will now allow couples to have three kids.
According to state media, the move was approved by President Xi Jinping following concerns about the country's slow growing population.
This comes after Beijing abolished its infamous 'one child' policy in 2016 which had been in place since the late-1970s due to concerns over its ageing workforce and economic stagnation.
The two child limit has failed to result in a sustained surge in births as the high cost of raising kids in Chinese cities deterred many couples from starting families.
"To further optimise the birth policy, (China) will implement a one-married-couple-can-have-three-children policy," state news agency Xinhua said in a report on the meeting.
The change will come with "supportive measures, which will be conducive to improving our country's population structure, fulfilling the country's strategy of actively coping with an ageing population and maintaining the advantage, endowment of human resources", the report says.
It did not specify the support measures.
The announcement drew a chilly response on Chinese social media, where many people said they could not afford to have even one or two children.
"I am willing to have three children if you give me 5 million yuan ($785,650)," one user posted on Weibo
Early this month, a once-in-a-decade census showed that China's population grew at its slowest rate during the last decade since the 1950s, to 1.41 billion.
Data also showed a fertility rate of just 1.3 children per woman for 2020 alone, on a par with ageing societies like Japan and Italy.
What was the ‘one child’ policy?
Since 1978, China harshly implemented the one-child policy, leading to forced abortions and infanticides across the country.
During the years of the policy, second children would not be registered in the household system unless a hefty fine was paid with some exceptions to this rule.
According to China’s last population census, in 2010, there were 13 million unregistered citizens, almost one percent of the country’s total population.
“Most of them are children born outside the country’s one-child policy,” said Jiantang Ma, the then head of China’s National Bureau of Statistics who conducted the census.
A 2015 study by the Academy of Macroeconomic Research at the National Development and Reform Commission found nearly half of China’s unregistered citizens were illiterate or lacked formal education.
Births out of marriage are also considered a violation of China’s strict family planning rules and unmarried couples had to pay a fine to register their newborn.
China is one of few countries which has a household registration system, known as hukou in Chinese, that contains the births, marriages and other information on citizens.
A person without a hukou record in China is denied public services, such as education and health care, and is barred from getting married, finding a job or even opening a bank account.
Despite efforts to encourage couples to have children, China's annual births have continued to plummet to a record low of 12 million in 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics said.
The slow population growth rate comes alongside a sharp drop in the number of working-age people, once again raising fears of a looming crisis.
China's gender balance has also been skewed by decades of the one-child policy and a traditional social preference for boys which prompted a generation of sex-selective abortions and abandoned baby girls.
Although the policy has been relaxed in the last few years, this has not prompted a baby boom as policymakers had hoped.
Falling marriage rates in recent years have played out in slower birth rates, as have rising costs of living and increasingly empowered and educated women delaying or avoiding childbirth.
The demographic shift in China has significant economic and political implications for the world's second biggest economy.
A third of Chinese are forecast to be elderly by 2050, heaping huge pressure on the state to provide pensions and healthcare.
The Communist Party also said today it would phase-in delays in the country's retirement ages, but did not provide any details.
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