China has ended its one-child policy and will allow all couples to have two children, making this a dramatic change by the country’s ruling Communist Party after more than three decades amid pressure from an ageing society and a growing shortfall in the workforce.
The decision was taken by the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Thursday
China’s family planning policy was first introduced in late 1979 to rein in the surging population by limiting most urban couples to one child and most rural couples to two children, if the first child born was a girl. The policy was later relaxed to say that any parents could have a second child if they were both only children at that time.
According to U.N. estimates, nearly 440 million people in China would be over 60 by 2050, signalling a sharp decline in the labour pool. Last year, the working population between the ages 15 and 59 slid by 3.71 million.
Following its findings last year, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said the mainland should, without delay, permit all couples to have a second child because the total fertility rate had dropped to 1.4, signifying the average number of children to be born of a woman in her entire lifespan.
The state-run Xinhua news agency, quoting a communiqué issued at the end of the fifth plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, said that the change is intended to balance population development and address the challenge of an ageing population.
Economics is key to understanding why China has decided to forego a longstanding policy that has been, ultimately, too successful: It’s resulted in a shrinking population. One of the challenges that has contributed to pressure for the country to transition from a low-end manufacturing giant to a consumer-led economy is because it hasn’t been able to sustain a cheap labour pool.
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