China ends one-child policy for families to spur growth
China's one-child policy has ended, state media said yesterday, as Beijing battles to confront a demographic time bomb by allowing all couples to have two children for the first time in decades.
Xinhua news agency announced the end of the policy in a statement issued by the ruling Communist Party after a four-day meeting of China's leaders.
China's one-child policy was introduced in the late 1970s as Beijing sought to stem a rapidly growing population, and officials still claim it has been a major factor behind the country's growing prosperity.
But the rules - which have applied mainly to urban dwellers - have been relaxed in recent years as China confronts the consequences of a dwindling workforce and a rapidly ageing population.
Chinese experts expect the country's working population - estimated by the government to be roughly 915 million at the end of 2014 - to drop by around 40 million by 2030.
By 2050, 30pc of Chinese will be age 60 or over, the United Nations estimates, versus 20pc worldwide and 10pc in China in the year 2000.
The policy had in the past been sometimes brutally enforced by officials keen to meet Government quotes on birth control.
Ethnic minorities and rural families were exempt from the rules, and there has been notable relaxations for urban residents in recent years.
At the end of 2013, couples nationwide were allowed to have a second child if either parent was an only child. But relatively few families have applied to have a second child since the recent relaxation of the policy.
The decision to relax the law was announced as the Communist leadership met in Beijing to address a stuttering economy with a new Five Year Plan.
The Five Year Plan is the 13th to be launched since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, and it is also intended to address social problems as China seeks to create a "moderately prosperous society".
The country's rubber-stamp legislature - the National People's Congress - will officially approve the resulting document next year.
Only 53,000 couples in Beijing - which has a population above 20 million - have applied to have a second child since the rules were relaxed in 2013, Xinhua said last week.
The city had estimated the policy would increase the city's population by more than 270,000, with around 54,200 additional births annually until 2019, when the figure would peak and begin to go down steadily, the news agency added. (© Daily Telegraph, London)