In China, couples will be allowed to have up to three children in the future. The Politburo of the Communist Party decided on Monday to abolish the so-called two-child policy, which had limited the number of children allowed to two, with exceptions. Until 2016, only one child per family was allowed as a rule.
The Chinese leadership is thus reacting to the birth rate, which has been declining for years. This trend was recently confirmed by the results of a population census. Experts believe that the Chinese population could shrink in the coming years. There are fears that the declining proportion of the working population could overburden the social systems in the future and slow down economic growth. In China, this concern is usually summed up by the phrase that the country could grow old before it gets rich.
Party leaders on Monday discussed measures "to optimize family planning policies to achieve high-quality economic development and maintain national security and social stability." The meeting was chaired by State and Party leader Xi Jinping, Xinhua news agency reported. The Politburo also discussed far-reaching measures to deal with an aging society. Among other things, a gradual increase in the retirement age was announced. Care for the elderly is also to be expanded and long-term care insurance is to be established.
The three-child policy has been announced for some time. To mark the Year of the Pig, a stamp depicting a pig family with three piglets had been issued in 2018. This was generally understood as an indication that the government was considering abolishing the two-child policy. Nevertheless, until recently there have been repeated cases of couples having to pay heavy fines for their third child or losing their jobs with state employers.
Despite the repeal of the one-child policy, the birth rate had declined in recent years after a brief increase. Young couples cite the high cost of education and housing in China's metropolises as one of the main reasons. Added to this are the increased level of education among women and the negative impact that a second child has on the career opportunities of mothers in China. Experts also point out that today's mothers mostly grew up as only children and never experienced the importance of siblings themselves.
The one-child policy had been introduced in 1980 because high population growth was considered an obstacle to economic development. The policy was accompanied by millions of forced sterilizations and forced abortions.
Image by Denise Husted