China Now Allows Three Children, Up From Two Since 2015
The Communist busybody control-freak one-child imposition has been a blunder of mythical proportions
China said Monday that it would allow all married couples to have as many as three children and provide government support for education and child rearing, a move that comes as Beijing struggles to reverse a worsening demographic situation that presents a host of social and economic challenges.
The shift comes more than five years after Beijing ended its decadeslong “one-child policy” to let all couples have two children, and follows the May 11 release of census figures showing China’s population on the cusp of a historic turning point after years of rapid growth.
The announcement came after a Monday meeting of the Politburo, the Chinese Communist Party’s top decision-making body, chaired by leader Xi Jinping —a signal of concern over the demographic situation at the country’s highest levels. State-run Xinhua News Agency said the change would “improve the country’s population structure, actively implement the national strategy to respond to the aging population, and maintain the country’s demographic advantage.”
Traditionally, such decisions have come out of broader Communist Party policy conferences. Some demographers had expected a loosening or even a lifting of birth policies at the end of the year at a roughly annual gathering of the top few hundred party officials.
“It’s unprecedented,” said Yi Fuxian, a U.S.-based researcher and longtime critic of China’s population policies. “It signals how concerned Xi Jinping is.”
Mr. Yi said that by itself, the move won’t change the broader trends. More than merely lifting the cap on the number of children that families can have, though, Monday’s announcement sets the stage for a host of potentially sweeping changes on healthcare, retirement, pensions and social welfare.
Under the new policy, the government said it would offer more equitable educational resources and reduce educational expenditures for families—policies aimed at removing obstacles widely seen by experts as holding back couples from having more children.
The question now is whether the Chinese government’s relaxing of birth restrictions will make a difference in persuading more of the country’s couples to have more babies.
In 2013, the government allowed couples to have two children when one of the parents was an only child, and in 2015, Beijing said it would allow all couples to have up to two children.
About half of Chinese couples are willing to have two children, according to a 2017 study by the state-backed All-China Women’s Federation.
The once-in-a-decade census showed 12 million babies born in China last year, the fourth straight year in which births fell, despite the relaxed restrictions. In 2016, there were 17.86 million births.
The census also showed a sharp rise in the percentage of Chinese aged 60 and above, to 18.7% of the population as of the end of 2020, up from 13.3% in 2010. The portion of Chinese citizens aged between 15 and 59, representing the size of its working population, stood at 63.35% in 2020, down from 70.1% in 2010.
“Evidence in other countries suggests that, once [the] birthrate is on a downward trend, it is difficult to…reverse it,” said Zhang Zhiwei, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management.
In Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and Japan, years of government efforts to reverse falling birthrates have largely failed. But the scale of China’s challenge is on a different order.
For more than three decades, China relied on young workers to fuel its economic growth and build up the world’s second-largest economy. Now, the impact of the one-child policy—imposed by Beijing in 1980—is becoming apparent, having effectively prevented the births of millions of workers and women of childbearing age, as the number of senior citizens is climbing.
Source: The Wall Street Journal