China on Monday relaxed its family planning policy allowing couples to have three children.
For the majority of Chinese couples, it will be the first time that they will be legally allowed to have three children.
During the period when China strictly implemented the one-child policy – from the late 1970s to 2016 – only couples from minority ethnicities were allowed more than one child.
The decision to allow three children every family is a response to China’s deepening ageing problem and aims to improve the country’s population structure in the future.
It was taken at a meeting of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) Central Committee’s powerful Politburo, chaired by President and party general secretary, Xi Jinping, on Monday.
According to state media reports, the meeting decided that it was necessary to allow couples to have three children to help improve China’s population structure, implement the strategy to actively respond to an ageing population and maintain the country’s population dividend.
It was emphasised at the meeting that party committees and governments at all levels should strengthen planning and policy coordination to implement the three-child-birth policy in accordance with the law, state media reports said.
Authorities at all levels should promote the coordination of birth policies and related economic and social policies and improve the population impact assessment mechanism of major economic and social policies.
The decision was implemented five years after Beijing implemented the two-child policy in 2016 – which, according to experts, did not have the desired effect to counter the problem of China’s ageing society.
China had introduced a strict one-child policy for the majority of its citizens in the late 1970s to keep its population under check.
Instead in the following four decades, it led to an ageing society and an impending economic burden.
The latest census data made public earlier in May had revealed that China’s population is growing at its most sluggish pace in decades, with the country adding only 72 million in the past decade.
The average annual growth rate was 0.53% over the past 10 years, down from a rate of 0.57% between 2000 and 2010 – bringing the population to 1.41bn.
The total population figure on the mainland stood at 1.41178 billion on November 1, 2020.
The rate is the slowest since 1953 when the first census was carried out.
The slump in population growth rate – despite Beijing withdrawing the one-child policy in 2016 – will add pressure on Beijing to incentivise child-bearing as the most populous country deals with a rapidly ageing population and the added economic burden.
The census result showed that China’s “…population is not just declining but also its demographic structure is deteriorating with a growing ageing population, will serve as an important reference for China’s population and economic policy adjustment as well as plans to put off retirement, which may come in the next year or two”, a state media report said on the census data.