CHINA has announced it will put an end to its highly controversial and unpopular one-child policy.
According to the official Xinhua news agency, all couples will be allowed two children, citing a communique issued by the ruling Communist Party following a four-day meeting in Beijing.
The historic change was “intended to balance population development and address the challenge of an ageing population”, Xinhua said.
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Many campaigners have stressed that the “two-child policy” means China will still retain population control mechanisms – while demographic changes will take decades to have an effect, and previous loosenings led to fewer extra births than expected.
But it is a historical moment for the country, who first introduced the policy in the later 1970s.
Couples were restricted to only a single offspring and for years authorities argued that it was a key contributor to China’s economic boom and had prevented 400 million births.
It was enforced by a dedicated national commission with a system of fines for violators and often forced abortions, leading to heartrending tales of loss for would-be parents.
But China’s population – the world’s largest at 1.37 billion – is now ageing rapidly, gender imbalances are severe, and its workforce is shrinking.
The concerns led to limited reforms in 2013, including allowing a second child for some couples in urban areas, but relatively few have taken up the opportunity.
Human rights organisations welcomed the change to the deeply unpopular policy, but expressed reservations about remaining controls.