June 16, 2021

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China to allow couples to have up to three children to cope with aging society – NBC News

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China will allow couples to have up to three children amid worries that the number of working-age people in the world’s most populous country is falling too fast, state media reported on Monday.

Xinhua news agency reported that the change was approved during a Communist Party Politburo meeting chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The news follows census data that showed China’s working-age population shrank over the past decade while the number of people older than 65 rose, adding strain on the economy and society. The growth is its slowest in decades, and could pose a major threat to China’s ambitious economic goals, experts have warned.

Oct. 29, 201500:52

“Birth policies will be further improved. Policy that allows a couple to have three children will be introduced with supporting measures, which will improve China’s population structure,” Xinhua reported.

The Communist Party has enforced birth limits since 1980 to restrain population growth, and the dwindling population is partially a result of its controversial one-child policy imposed in 1979. Couples who didn’t abide by its family planning laws faced losing their jobs and being fined. In some cases, mothers were forced to abort their babies or be sterilized.

Restrictions were loosened in 2015, after calls were made to change the one-child-policy amid slowing economic growth and warnings of economic issues that could arise from an ageing population. Families were then allowed up to two children per family.

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However, the liberalization of policies failed to revive the country’s declining birthrate. The 2020 census revealed that mothers gave birth to 12 million babies last year, down from 14.65 million in 2019, marking an 18 percent decline year-on-year, continuing China’s descent to a near six-decade low.

Meanwhile, the number of older people also grew to 18.7 per cent of the total, up from 13.26 percent a decade ago and about 10 percent in 2000.

Some experts warned that the government’s proposal will likely fall short because it fails to recognize the reasons behind China’s declining birthrate.

“People are held back not by the two-children limit, but by the incredibly high costs of raising children in today’s China,” Yifei Li, a sociologist from NYU Shanghai, told Reuters. “An effective policy should have provided more social support and welfare. Raising the limit itself is unlikely to tilt anyone’s calculus in a meaningful way.”

Shuang Ding, Chief Economist at Standard Chartered bank said the government ought to allow families to choose how many children they want without any restrictions.

“A fully liberalized birth policy should have been implemented at least five years ago, but it’s too late now, although it’s better late than never,” he told Reuters.

Many comments on China’s social media platform, Weibo, echoed these statements.

“It’s not a question of how many children to have. It’s a question of whether the cost of childcare can be reduced,” wrote one user.

The Associated Press, Vincent Wan and Reuters contributed.

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