China has announced that couples will be allowed to have up to three children as part of a major policy change from the current limit of two children, after recent data showed a dramatic drop in births in the country. most populous country in the world.
“To actively respond to the aging population … a couple can have three children,” state media Xinhua reported on Monday, citing a meeting of the leadership committee of China’s elite politburo hosted by President Xi Jinping.
Earlier this month, China recorded the slowest population growth since the early 1960s, despite abandoning its one-child policy in 2015 to encourage more births and avert a looming population crisis.
A once-a-decade census showed that China’s total population grew to 1.41178 billion in the 10 years to 2020, up 5.38 percent. This increase reflects an average annual increase of 0.53%, compared to 0.57% from 2000 to 2010.
For nearly four decades, China has pursued a controversial one-child policy initially imposed to stop a population explosion. Its replacement – a limit of two children – has not resulted in a sustained increase in the number of births, as the high cost of raising children in Chinese cities has deterred many couples from starting families.
The announcement sparked a cold reaction on Chinese social media, where many people said they couldn’t afford to have even one or two children. “I’m ready to have three kids if you give me 5 million yuan (£ 554,350),” one user posted on Weibo.
It’s not just China that faces such a demographic challenge. Authorities across East Asia have struggled for years to persuade couples to have more babies. South Korea and Japan both used allowances to increase incentives.
In recent years, an experiment with a three-child policy has been underway in Heilongjiang province, in northeast China. Still, some Chinese experts said the result was less effective than previously thought. This month’s census has led experts to call for a complete end to birth control in China.
The policy change will be accompanied by “support measures, which will improve the demographic structure of our country, implement the country’s strategy of actively facing the aging of the population and maintaining the advantage, human resource staffing, ”Xinhua said. He did not specify the support measures.
Asian demographics professor Wang Feng of the University of California at Irvine said Beijing should already have abandoned its birth control policy altogether. ” It’s old fashioned. What China needs is not another state policy, but rather a better and fairer society, ”he said.