China will authorize up to three children per family, abolishing the limit of two, in the hope of reviving the birth rate in the most populous country in the world.
Three weeks after the results of its last census, which revealed a sharp slowdown in its population growth, China decided to liberalize his family policy, but maintaining a limit of no more than three children per couple.
“In response to the aging of the population, couples will be allowed to have three children,” the state news agency reported, citing the conclusions of a meeting of the Communist Party’s political bureau headed by President Xi Jinping.
This policy must be accompanied by “support measures” for families, added the official press agency without further details.
In early May, the 2020 census results revealed a faster-than-expected aging of the Chinese population.
In 2020, marked by the covid-19 epidemic, the number of births fell to 12 million, against 14.65 million in 2019, the year in which the birth rate (10.48 per 1,000 inhabitants) was already one of the lowest since the founding of Communist China in 1949.
In the late 1970s, Chinese leaders discovered to their amazement that the population was approaching 1 billion, almost double that of 1949. In response, the then strongman of the regime, Deng Xiaoping, imposes the “one child policy”, with heavy fines for offenders, but with easing for ethnic minorities or peasant families when their first child was a girl.
After more than three decades of the “one-child policy”, widely criticized at the time -for its forced abortions and sterilizations-, China relaxed its rules in 2016, allowing all Chinese to have a second child.
But that new policy was not enough to reactivate the free-falling birth rate for several reasons.
Among those reasons is the decrease in marriages, the increase in the cost of housing and education, the later fertility of women who privilege their professional careers, excess of the number of men in relation to women with women due to the traditional preference for male children.
At the other end of the age pyramid, China had more than 264 million people over the age of 60 last year.
The age group over 60 now constitutes 18.7% of the total population, an increase of 5.44 percentage points compared to the 2010 census.
On the contrary, the population of working age (15 to 59 years) does not represent more than 63.35% of the total, 6.79 points less than 10 years ago.
In March, parliament voted on a plan to gradually increase the retirement age over the next five years, to the chagrin of much of the population. Details of that policy have not been disclosed.
Demographers warned of the risk of a Japanese or South Korean evolution, with a decline in the population and an excess of older people in relation to the young and the economically active population.
Meanwhile, population growth has slowed considerably.
According to the latest census, the world’s most populous country officially had 1.411 million inhabitants at the end of 2020.
Compared to the previous 2010 census, the population increased by only 5.38% (or an average of 0.53% per year), the lowest growth rate since the 1960s.
At this rate, China could be stripped of its title of world’s first population faster than expected by India: The great neighbor of the South would have 1.38 billion inhabitants in 2020, according to United Nations estimates.
Up to now, China expected its population growth curve to peak in 2027, when India would exceed it. China’s population would then begin to decline to 1.32 billion in 2050.
In recent years, voices have been raised to abolish any limit on the number of children per family, but the communist regime has refused to lift any control in this area.