China will now allow couples to have three children after a census revealed the country’s population is quickly aging, according to state media on Monday, further undoing four decades of rigorous family planning regulations that have stifled the birthrate in the world’s most populous nation.
Demographers both inside and outside China have long warned that the country’s low fertility rate – which experts estimate to be between 1.2 and 1.5 children per woman – is causing a demographic disaster.
By 2050, a third of Chinese people are expected to be elderly, putting enormous strain on the government’s ability to pay pensions and healthcare. As a result, China has decided to allow couples to have three children.
On Monday, May 31st, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, presided over a meeting of the CPC Central Committee’s Political Bureau to receive reports on significant policy measures to effectively handle population ageing during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025).
The meeting discussed a decision to improve birth policies in order to promote long-term demographic balance.
According to the United Nations, China would have over 440 million individuals over the age of 60 by 2050. Last year, the working-age population (those aged 15 to 59) declined by 3.71 million.
An increasing number of scientists and government officials are calling for the two-child ban to be repealed, claiming that it would help boost the country’s dwindling birth rate. There were even hints in 2018 that the government might cooperate.
Several members of China’s main legislative body, the National People’s Congress, proposed eliminating birth restrictions that year. Some demographers predicted that the change will take effect before the end of the year.
Although those projections proved to be premature, several local governments made steps to defang the family-planning regime. At least nine provinces have repealed laws requiring public sector employers to terminate employees for misconduct.
At least nine provinces have repealed laws that made it illegal for public sector employers to fire employees for having a third child.
Experts believe that these effects will improve health outcomes by reducing unapproved pregnancy abortions, virtually eliminating the problem of unregistered children, and restoring a more normal sex ratio. The new policy’s effects on the declining workforce and rising population ageing are estimated to take two decades to manifest.
Due to widespread concerns about an ageing workforce and economic stagnation, China changed its controversial “one-child policy,” one of the world’s harshest family planning restrictions, to a “two-child policy” in 2016.
The Communist Party claims that the policy prevented 400 million births, leading to China’s rapid economic growth during the 1980s.
With China’s 1.3 billion-strong population increasingly aging and the country’s labor pool diminishing, the strategy has created a demographic “timebomb.”
The two-child policy was predicted to have a minor impact on population growth, peaking at 1.45 billion in 2029 compared to 1.4 billion in 2023 if the one-child policy was maintained.
However, forced sterilisations, infanticide, and sex-selective abortions have resulted in a huge gender imbalance, ensuring that millions of men will never find female spouses.
Despite the fact that the policy has been loosened in recent years, it has not resulted in the baby boom that authorities had hoped for.
Many people in China, including ethnic minorities and couples who are both the only child of their parents, are already allowed to have two children.
Many of these families, however, refuse to have a second child because of the financial burden. Despite government efforts to encourage couples to have children, China’s yearly births have continued to decline, reaching a new low of 12 million in 2020, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, as the cost of living rises and women increasingly make their own family planning decisions.
Rising costs of living, as well as increasingly empowered and educated women delaying or postponing childbearing, have all contributed to reduced birth rates in recent years. According to experts, the loosening of family planning restrictions is unlikely to have a long-term demographic impact, especially in metropolitan regions where couples are now hesitant to have more than one child due to the high expense.
The one-child policy and a traditional social preference for boys have skewed China’s gender balance, leading to a generation of sex-selective abortions and abandoned baby girls.
Some people hailed the move as a step forward in China’s quest for more personal liberty for the Chinese. Human rights groups and critics, however, felt the easing did not go far enough, because the Communist party still controls the size of Chinese families.
Human rights community claim the government has no right to regulate how many children people have.
Though government stated in 2018 that its policy goals had switched from controlling China’s population to managing the “shape and quality” of its population.
The two terms can be used to describe a person’s health and education, as well as their age, gender, ethnicity, religion, and marital status, among other things.
The world’s second largest economy faces substantial economic and political consequences as a result of China’s demographic change.