The Communist Party in China announced Monday that it is loosening its restrictions on births in the country after census data revealed concerning population numbers.
The Associated Press reported that the ruling party stated couples are now allowed to have three children instead of only two in order to hopefully slow down the accelerated aging of the people in the country, which is reportedly “adding to strains on the economy and society,” per the outlet.
The party has enforced limitations on how many children a couple can have in China since 1980, AP reported, but has begun to worry that the amount of people who are able to work is declining too rapidly while the amount of people who are over the age of 65 is going up.
China got rid of its well-known and established one-child policy in 2015, but it replaced the policy with a limit of two children, which apparently did not do enough to positively impact its birth rate.
President Xi Jinping reportedly led a meeting of the party where they decided to begin “measures to actively deal with the aging population,” the state-owned Xinhua News Agency said. It reportedly stated that leaders came to an agreement that ”implementing the policy of one couple can have three children and supporting measures are conducive to improving China’s population structure.”
“Leaders also agreed China needs to raise its retirement age to keep more people in the workforce and improve pension and health services for the elderly, Xinhua said,” per the AP. No additional information was provided, but the outlet reported that the government has been discussing increasing the official age of retirement.
A New York Times article originally published in early May and updated Monday discussed the population numbers in China. The outlet reported that China’s population is recorded at 1.41 billion people, according to the census taken in 2020. “Since the previous census, in 2010, China’s population grew by 72 million people,” it said, adding that “in percentage terms it is the smallest increase recorded since the Chinese government conducted its first census, in 1953.”
According to the Times, the “new population figure puts the average annual growth rate at 0.53 percent over the past decade, down from 0.57 percent from 2000 to 2010. This puts China on course to be surpassed by India as the world’s most populous nation in the coming years.” It added that China’s “population is also aging rapidly. People over the age of 65 now account for 13.5 percent of the population, the census showed, up from 8.9 percent in 2010.”
The AP noted that around 40% of the 12 million births reported in 2020 were second children, which is “down from 50% in 2017, according to Ning Jizhe, a statistics official who announced the data on May 11.”
The Labor Ministry and Chinese researchers said the amount of people who are able to work might drop to half the population in the country by the year 2050. This would cause the “dependency ratio” to go up, which is the amount of retired people who are counting on workers to create enough income for pension funding, as well as paying taxes for certain services.
On Monday, social media commentary on some China-based websites revealed some people’s thoughts about the change. “Every stage of the problem hasn’t been solved,” said a post on the popular Sina Weibo micro-blogging site signed Tchaikovsky, the AP noted. “Who will raise the baby? Do you have time? I go out early and get back late. Kids don’t know what their parents look like.”
The head of Amnesty International’s China Team, Joshua Rosenzweig, responded to the change in policy, saying, “Governments have no business regulating how many children people have. Rather than ‘optimizing’ its birth policy, China should instead respect people’s life choices and end any invasive and punitive controls over people’s family planning decisions.”
Rosenzweig added, “Under such a policy, couples could still be penalized for their decisions around childbirth. Raising the limit from two children to three would bring China no closer to meeting its human rights obligations. Everyone, regardless of marital status, should be entitled to sexual and reproductive rights, including whether and when to become pregnant.”