A decades-old policy restricting Chinese couples from having two or more children will be loosened, state media said, as part of sweeping reforms.
In a report Friday, the Chinese government said it plans to relax the one-child policy first introduced at the end of the 1970s to curb the country’s rapid population. The controversial policy has been stricly enforced by officials, with some resulting in forced abortions and hefty fines.
The reform will allow couples to have two children if one parent is an only child, the official Xinhua news agency reports.
Previously, couples who are both a single child, and in some cases, those in rural areas, are allowed up to two children.
But with the relatively low fertility rate contributing to an aging population, China’s elderly are feeling the brunt of the law. The elderly typically rely on their children for support in old age.
Meanwhile, analysts said the changes would not lead to a baby boom in China, taking into account younger people’s perspective when it comes to having children.
“Two children should be the standard,” said Zhang Yuan, a civil servant in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province.
“Even if the policy was further relaxed, it’s not necessarily so that every couple will have more kids,” she said. “It’s a huge pressure to raise a kid, especially in China.”
Officials estimate the policy change will result in 1 million to 2 million extra births per year in the first few years, adding to the 16 million babies already born each year.
The government is also looking into abolishing labor camps in an effort to human rights, signifying what state media lauds as President Xi Jinping’s openness to changes.
Under the so-called “reeducation through labor” system, tens of thousands are imprisoned in China without trial.
Critics have long accused authorities of misusing the camps to silence political dissidents.
As part of the reforms, the government will also reduce the number of crimes subject to the death penalty.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: Elizabeth Thomsen/Flickr