China has relaxed its family planning policy to allow couples to have a maximum of three children after a census showed its population is rapidly ageing, state media Xinhua on reported Monday.
For almost 40 years, China enforced a controversial “one-child policy” — one of the strictest family planning regulations worldwide — which was lifted in 2016 due to widespread concerns over an ageing workforce and economic stagnation.
“To actively respond to the ageing of the population … a couple can have three children,” Xinhua said, citing a Monday meeting of China’s elite Politburo leadership committee hosted by President Xi Jinping, reported news agency AFP.
Despite government efforts to encourage childbirths, China’s annual births have continued to plummet to a record low of 12 million in 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics said last month.
China’s fertility rate stands at 1.3 — below the level needed to maintain a stable population, the bureau revealed.
The once-in-a-decade 2020 census results published last month also showed that China’s population grew at its slowest rate since the 1960s, reaching 1.41 billion.
It comes alongside a sharp drop in the number of working-age people, once again raising fears of a looming demographic crisis.
China’s gender balance has also been skewed by decades of the one-child policy, and a traditional social preference for boys which prompted a generation of sex-selective abortions and abandoned baby girls. (Agency inputs)