China Says It Will End One-Child Policy

Under new rules, Chinese families can have two children

China One Child Billboard
A man walks by a family planning billboard portraying parents and one child in Beijing in 1983. China just announced it will reverse its controversial one-child policy. Bettmann/CORBIS

For decades, China has restricted parents from having more than one child. Now, reports Tom Phillips for The Guardian, the controversial policy will change: families will be allowed to have two children.

The new policy was announced during a Communist Party meeting on financial reform and national growth, Phillips reports, as a way to address China’s aging population. It comes after months of speculation that the one-child rule would be changed, and was accompanied by neither detailed rules nor an estimated timeframe.

China's one-child policy was implemented in 1980, in response to the country's population boom. A scientist named Song Jian used economic analyses to convince leaders to enact the rule, Bing Jia writes for the Library of Congress. Without state-imposed population control, Jian believed China would face drought and famine.

Driven by those controls, the number of children born per Chinese woman fell from 6.1 to 1.7 between 1950 and 2010, even as China’s total population grew 150 percent. The Chinese government also profited from the rule, imposing fine on citizens who gave birth illegally. By 2013, though, the law had been significantly relaxed, with exceptions made for rural farmers and families with handicapped children.

The United Nations estimates that by 2050, nearly 30 percent of Chinese citizens will be at least 60 years old. This aging population is widely believed to have sparked the end of the one-child policy, which has been criticized for encouraging severe gender imbalance, forced abortions and the rise of a child trafficking industry. For now, it’s unknown how—and when—China’s new two-child policy will affect its citizens.

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