China to allow all couples to have two children
CHINA will ease family planning restrictions to allow all couples to have two children after decades of a strict one-child policy, the ruling Communist Party said yesterday, a move aimed at alleviating demographic strains on the economy.
The policy is a major liberalisation of the country's family planning restrictions, already eased in late 2013 when Beijing said it would allow more families to have two children when the parents met certain conditions.
Many couples who were allowed to have another child under the 2013 rules decided not to, especially in the cities, citing the cost of bringing up children in an increasingly expensive country.
A growing number of scholars had urged the government to reform the rules, introduced in the late 1970s to prevent population growth spiralling out of control, but now regarded as outdated and responsible for shrinking China's labour pool.
By around the middle of this century, one in every three Chinese is forecast to be over 60, with a dwindling proportion of working adults to support them.
The announcement was made at the close of a key party meeting focused on financial reforms and maintaining growth between next year and 2020 amid concerns over the country's slowing economy.
China will "fully implement a policy of allowing each couple to have two children as an active response to an ageing population", the party said in a statement carried by the official Xinhua news agency. There were no immediate details on the new policy or a timeframe for implementation.
Wang Feng, a leading expert on demographic and social change in China, called the latest change an "historic event" that would change the world but said the challenges of China's ageing society would remain.
"It's an event that we have been waiting for for a generation, but it is one we have had to wait much too long for," Mr Wang said.
"It won't have any impact on the issue of the ageing society, but it will change the character of many young families."
Chinese people took to microblogging site Weibo to welcome the move, but many said they probably would not opt for a second child.
"I can't even afford to raise one, let alone two," wrote one user.