China announced Monday that it will now allow couples to have three children, further updating the Chines Communist Party’s infamous “one-child policy” amid concerns that the country’s declining birth rate has it headed for a population crash.
“China said on Monday that it would allow all married couples to have three children, ending a two-child policy that has failed to raise the country’s declining birthrates and avert a demographic crisis,” The New York Times reported.
“The announcement by the ruling Communist Party represents an acknowledgment that its limits on reproduction, the world’s toughest, have jeopardized the country’s future,” the outlet continued. “The labor pool is shrinking and the population is graying, threatening the industrial strategy that China has used for decades to emerge from poverty to become an economic powerhouse.”
Births in China have fallen in recent years, and the country’s “total fertility rate” stands at just 1.3 children per couple, below the country’s “replacement rate” of 2.1 children per couple. Harder still, the country’s population is aging, leaving China on the verge of having to care for thousands of elderly individuals who had only one child — or none at all.
For some, the news was a welcome change from earlier policies that first limited couples to one child, then two. Others, though, told media that they are not interested in having more children simply because the government allows them to, according to The Guardian. Still others suggested that while China is improving its family policies, it has yet to provide any encouragement to couples who have not yet had children through improved maternity care and family leave policies.
“Don’t they know that most young people are already tired enough just trying to feed themselves?” one anonymous commenter told The New York Times.
“The decision-makers have probably realized that the population situation is relatively severe,” “an independent demographer based in the southern Chinese city of Zhanjiang” added. “But merely opening up the policy to three children and not encouraging births as a whole, I don’t think there will be a significant increase in the fertility rate. Many people don’t want to have a second child, let alone a third child.”
The policy, of course, applies only to certain populations.
As The Associated Press reported last year, while China is trying to pressure ethnic Chinese residents to reproduce, it is forcibly sterilizing members of ethnic minority populations, including the Uyghurs.
“The Chinese government is taking draconian measures to slash birth rates among Uighurs and other minorities as part of a sweeping campaign to curb its Muslim population, even as it encourages some of the country’s Han majority to have more children,” the AP said last year.
“While individual women have spoken out before about forced birth control, the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known, according to an AP investigation based on government statistics, state documents, and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members, and a former detention camp instructor,” the outlet added. “The campaign over the past four years in the far west region of Xinjiang is leading to what some experts are calling a form of ‘demographic genocide.'”