China Will Allow Couples To Have Three Children, In Major Policy Shift


China’s ruling Communist Party will allow couples in the country to have three children, state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Monday, a move that comes after decades of stricter birth limits have created a rapidly aging population that is likely to strain the country’s economy.

Key Facts

The change was approved during a Communist Party politburo meeting on Monday chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping as part of policies that will “actively respond to the aging population,” according to Xinhua.

According to the South China Morning Post, the Communist Party said in a statement that the three-child policy will be introduced with unspecified “supporting measures” and this will improve the “population structure” of the country.

The new policy further eases birth limits after the country’s leadership scrapped its decades-old one-child policy in 2015 to allow couples to have two children.

Under the present two-child policy, fines of around $20,000 (¥130,000) were imposed on couples having a third child.

The reports offer no details on when and how the policy change will be carried out.

Big Number

63%. That’s the share of China’s working-age population (those aged between 15 and 59 years old) according to the country’s most recent census data published earlier this month. This is a drop from a 70.1% share just a decade earlier, while over-65s now make up a bigger percentage of the population, rising from 8.9% to 13.5% during the past decade.

Surprising Fact

According to Reuters, Xinhua’s Weibo account published a poll asking #AreYouReady for the three-child policy. Around 29,000 of 31,000 respondents said they would “never think of it,” which led to the poll being removed.

Key Background

The change in policy is unlikely to dramatically increase China’s declining birth rate as younger Chinese couples are apprehensive of the high costs of raising children in Chinese cities and the disruption it would cause to their professional careers. According to the South China Morning Post, lack of affordable public childcare, rising living costs, and grueling work hours are causing reluctance among China’s millennials to have children. China’s current predicament of a rapidly aging population is due to its one-child policy, which was introduced in 1979 to slow population growth. The resulting demographic shift has caused strains on the country’s underfunded pension and healthcare systems while the low-birth rate has meant that the number of working-age people needed to support the economy has declined. Under Xi, the Communist Party has pushed the idea of family values and women’s importance as caretakers as more women in the country are put off by childbirth and even marriage. According to the Wall Street Journal, Xi’s family values push has also been coupled with efforts to censor voices speaking about women’s rights online.

Further Reading

China to introduce three-child policy to cope with ageing population (South China Morning Post)

China population: millennial couples decry ‘unaffordable’ childcare as fertility rate falls (South China Morning Post)

Three-child policy: China lifts cap on births per family (Reuters)

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