China eases fertility policy, allows families to have three children

Weeks after the results of the decennial census were announced, the Chinese government decided to lift its two-child limit policy, allowing families to have up to three children in an effort to combat an aging population. The results of this latest survey show that the birth rate in China, the world’s most populous country, has dropped sharply.

Citing a resolution from a meeting of the Communist Party’s Politburo chaired by President Xi Jinping, China News Service reported that “in order to cope with the aging population (……) , a couple is allowed to have three children.”

AFP noted that the results of China’s 2020 census, released in early May, showed that the country’s population is aging faster than expected.

Last year, marked by the new crown epidemic, the number of births fell to 12 million, compared to 14.65 million in 2019, with a birth rate of 10.48 percent, the lowest level since the Communist Party’s establishment of power in 1949.

After more than three decades of the “one-child policy,” China relaxed its rules in 2016 to allow all Chinese of the right age to have a second child. But that did not bring the birth rate back up.

AFP reports that China’s birth rate has fallen for a number of reasons: fewer marriages, rising housing and education costs, and more career-focused women having children later in life.

At the other end of the age pyramid, China had more than 264 million people aged 60 and older last year, four times the total population of France.

This age group now accounts for 18.7% of China’s total population, an increase of 5.44 percentage points from the 2010 census. In contrast, the working-age population, aged 15 to 59, now accounts for only 63.35% of the population, a figure that has fallen by 6.79 percentage points in 10 years.

In March, a meeting of the Chinese National People’s Congress voted to gradually raise the retirement age over the next five years, much to the dismay of many people.