China Is Slowly Undoing Its One-Child Policy

The addition of an extra exemption will let more Chinese families have more than one child


Since 1979, China has imposed strict rules on the reproductive rights of the vast majority of its citizens, and the one-child-per-family policy has put a huge damper on the rapid population growth that characterized the earlier parts of the past century in the country. The law is heavy handed, says TIME, using fines (or worse) to punish those who fail to follow the rules, and it primarily affects the ethnic group that makes up the bulk of the country’s population, the Han—minorities are largely left to their own devices (in this one respect, at least).

In recent years, though, China has begun to loosen the reigns on its citizens’ family-planning decisions. First, China’s rural residents were allowed to have two kids if the first was a girl, says the Canadian Press. Despite this, says TIME, there is still a huge disparity in China’s population, with boys massively overrepresented. The rules were also slackened for couples who came from single-child families—they were allowed to have two kids.

But now, says the New York Times, even more exemptions are being added in. Now, if just one member of a couple is an only child (as opposed to both being only children), that couple can have two kids.

The changing rules is a continuation of China’s efforts to micromanage its population size, balancing the number of young working people with the demands that come from more people. In just a few decades, says the BBC, more than a quarter of China’s population will be seniors.

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