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China allows couples to have up to three children in major policy change

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China has relaxed its family planning policy to allow couples to have a maximum of three children after a census showed its population is rapidly ageing, state media Xinhua reported Monday.

For almost 40 years, China enforced a controversial “one-child policy” — one of the strictest family planning regulations worldwide — which was lifted in 2016 due to widespread concerns over an aging workforce and economic stagnation.

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“To actively respond to the ageing of the population ... a couple can have three children,” Xinhua said, citing a Monday meeting of China’s elite Politburo leadership committee hosted by President Xi Jinping.

Despite government efforts to encourage childbirths, China’s annual births have continued to plummet to a record low of 12 million in 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics said last month.

China’s fertility rate stands at 1.3 — below the level needed to maintain a stable population, the bureau revealed.

The once-in-a-decade 2020 census results published last month also showed that China’s population grew at its slowest rate since the 1960s, reaching 1.41 billion.

It comes alongside a sharp drop in the number of working-age people, once again raising fears of a looming demographic crisis.

China’s gender balance has also been skewed by decades of the one-child policy, and a traditional social preference for boys which prompted a generation of sex-selective abortions and abandoned baby girls.

Read more:

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China posts slowest population growth in decades: Data