Sources: Chinese authorities discuss complete removal of birth restrictions by 2025

Chinese authorities are working on plans to further relax birth restrictions and are discussing the possibility of lifting them altogether by 2025, according to multiple sources cited by the Wall Street Journal on June 18.

The sources said that 2025 is the end of the Communist Party’s so-called 14th Five-Year Plan, and that the transition to a policy that encourages fertility reflects the growing urgency felt by Beijing as economic growth slows and the population structure ages.

Reports indicate that China’s decennial census shows that the world’s most populous country is on the verge of a historic demographic decline. Authorities announced last month that they will allow all couples to have up to three children.

The authorities may lift the birth limit first in provinces with the lowest birth rates and then extend it to the whole country, sources said. But Chinese leaders are also concerned that fully liberalizing birth limits could encourage poor families in rural areas to have more children, exacerbating economic problems in some areas that have just escaped extreme poverty with government help.

Family planning has been an important “state policy” in China since 1980. The Communist Party leadership at the time saw the large and rapidly growing population as an economic obstacle, but many families were fined for having too many children, and many women of childbearing age were even forced to have sterilizations or abortions.