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World

China allows couples to have three children as birthrate falls

  • In 2016 China relaxed its "one-child policy" allowing couples to have two children as concerns mounted over an ageing workforce and economic stagnation.
31 May 2021

BEIJING: China will allow couples to have three children after a census showed its population is rapidly ageing, state media said Monday, further unwinding four decades of strict family planning controls in the world's most populous nation.

In 2016 China relaxed its "one-child policy" -- one of the world's strictest family planning regulations -- allowing couples to have two children as concerns mounted over an ageing workforce and economic stagnation.

But annual births have continued to plummet to a record low of 12 million in 2020, Beijing's National Bureau of Statistics said this month, as the cost of living rises and women increasingly make their own family planning choices.

China's fertility rate stands at 1.3 -- below the level needed to maintain a stable population, the figures revealed.

The slump threatens a demographic crisis which has alarmed President Xi Jinping's ruling Communist Party, risking a shortage of young workers to drive an economy experts say will have to support hundreds of millions of elderly by 2050.

A Monday meeting of the party's powerful Politburo led by Xi announced a further loosening of the state's control over the size of families.

"To actively respond to the ageing population... a couple can have three children," state media Xinhua reported.

The Politburo meeting promised "accompanying support measures" including improving maternity leave, universal childcare and lowering the costs of education, but without giving firm commitments.