Grappling with a major demographic crisis and an economic slowdown, China’s ruling Communist Party today scrapped its controversial three decades-long one-child policy, allowing all couples in the world’s most populous nation to have two children.
“China abandons one-child policy,” Xinhua, China’s official news agency, said on Twitter, citing a communique issued by the Communist Party of China (CPC), relaxing the rigid policy by permitting all couples to have two children in a move that can have huge implications globally.
Today’s announcement comes at the end of the four-day plenary session of the CPC headed by President Xi Jinping here amid growing concerns of rising numbers of old age population as well as concerns over declining labour force putting the world’s second largest economy under severe strain.
The change of policy is intended to balance population development and address the challenge of an ageing population, the CPC communique said.
The proposal is to be approved by the rubber stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), before it is implemented.
The plenary session of the party which met to finalise the 13th five-year plan to be implemented from next year decided to permit all couples to have two children.
According to last year’s official report, China had about 185 million people above the age of 60, or 13.7 per cent of the population and the numbers were expected to surge to 221 million this year, including 51 million “empty nesters” or elderly people whose children no longer live with them.
This is the first time China has done away with its one-child policy in over three-and-a-half long decades. The policy was considered controversial as it forced many abortions and continued to be criticised by rights groups and activists.
The announcement comes amid slowdown of China’s economy that has plunged below the 7 per cent figure for the first time since the 2009 global economic crisis.
China has been assessing the adjustment made to the one-child policy – allowing parents to have two children if either parent is an only child – to decide if further adjustment of birth policies are needed to address change in population growth.
The country gave the limited relaxation to the policy, adopting the policy adjustment at the end of 2013 in a major change on the family planning policy that has been blamed for the country’s looming demographic crisis.
China, also the world’s second largest economy, is the most populous country with a population of over 1.357 billion people, according to the 2013 census.