The party made the announcement after a meeting by the Politburo, a top decision-making body. It said the decision would “improve our country’s population structure and help implement a national strategy to actively respond to the aging population”. China’s family planning restrictions date to 1980, when the party first imposed a “one-child” policy to slow population growth and bolster the economic boom that was then just beginning. In 2013, as Chinese officials began to understand the implications of the country’s aging population, the government allowed parents who were from one-child families to have two children themselves. Two years later, the limit was raised to two children for everyone, effective January 1, 2016.
The new policy change will come with “supportive measures, the official Xinhua news agency said. Among those steps, China will lower educational costs for families, step up tax and housing support, guarantee the legal interests of working women and clamp down on “sky-high” dowries, it said, without giving specifics. It would also look to educate young people “on marriage and love”.
Economic pressures and an acceptance among many families that having one child is the norm have led to flagging birthrates, and experts do not expect significant changes from Monday’s announcement. Births in China have fallen for four consecutive years, including in 2020, when the number of babies born dropped to the lowest since the Mao era. The total fertility rate — an estimate of the number of kids born over a woman’s lifetime — now stands at 1.3, well below the replacement rate of 2.1. China’s rapidly graying population has started to impose increasing pressures. In its announcement, the party said it would increase funding to expand services for retirees. In 2020, the number of people age 60 and above in China stood at 264 million, accounting for 18.7% of the population. That figure is set to grow to over 300 million people, or about one-fifth of the population, by 2025, according to the government.
The party’s announcement is likely to revive longstanding complaints about the government’s invasive control over women’s bodies in China. On Weibo, users were quick to post remarks criticising the move as ineffective. “Don’t they know that most young people are already tired enough just trying to feed themselves?” wrote one user, pointing to a common lament about the rising costs of living.NYT & Agencies