China will allow couples to have up to three children as the number of working-age people in the world’s most populous country declines too quickly, state media reported on Monday.
The Xinhua News Agency reported that the change was approved at a Communist Party Politburo meeting chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The news follows census data that shows China’s working-age population has shrunk over the past decade, while the number of people over the age of 65 has increased, weighing down the economy and the society. Growth is the slowest in decades and could pose a major threat to China’s ambitious economic goals, experts have warned.
“Birth policies will be further improved. A policy allowing a couple to have three children will be introduced along with support measures, which will improve the structure of the Chinese population, ”Xinhua reported.
The Communist Party has imposed birth rates since 1980 to curb population growth, and the population decline is in part the result of its controversial one-child policy imposed in 1979 and fined. In some cases, mothers have been forced to abort their babies or be sterilized.
Restrictions were relaxed in 2015, after calls were made to change the one-child policy amid slowing economic growth and warnings of economic problems that could stem from an aging population. Families were then allowed up to two children per family.
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However, policy liberalization has failed to revive the decline in the country’s birth rate. The 2020 census found that mothers gave birth to 12 million babies last year, up from 14.65 million in 2019, marking an 18% year-over-year decline, continuing the descent of the China at a low of nearly six decades.
At the same time, the number of elderly people has also increased to 18.7% of the total, compared to 13.26% ten years ago and around 10% in 2000.
It has not been revealed when the new policy will take effect.
The Associated Press contributed.