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China ends controversial one-child policy amid shrinking workforce

Now, Chinese couples can have a second child only if either parent is an only child. Photo: AP

Now, Chinese couples can have a second child only if either parent is an only child. Photo: AP  

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China has dropped its controversial one-child policy bowing to pressures imposed by the prospects of an ageing society and a growing shortfall in the workforce.

The decision allowing couples to have two children was taken by the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) on Thursday.

The policy change is an advance over the 2013 ruling, which allowed couples, where one of the parents was a single child, to have two children.

Pressure was mounting on the authorities to ease family-size norms after it became evident that the one-child policy meant to restrain a burgeoning population in the seventies, was leading to severe labour shortages and an ageing population.

According to UN estimates, nearly 440 million people in China would be over 60 by 2050, signaling a sharp decline in the labour pool. Last year, the working population between the ages 15-59 slid by 3.71 million.

Following its findings last year, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said that the mainland should, without delay, permit all couples to have a second child because the total fertility rate had dropped to 1.4, signifying the average number of children to be born of a woman in her entire lifespan. This was well short of the 2.1 mark that should be reached to ensure a balanced population profile.

The state-run Xinhua news agency quoting a communiqué issued at the end of the fifth plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said that the change of policy is intended to balance population development and address the challenge of an ageing population.

The latest ruling notwithstanding, it was unclear whether spiraling living costs would allow couples to avail the two-child option. Many couples who were allowed another child under the 2013 rules decided not to, on account of the high cost of raising children, especially in the urban areas.

State media said in January, that out of about 30,000 families in Beijing who could benefit from the 2013 rules, just 6.7 per cent applied to have a second child.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 11:55:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/China-ends-controversial-one-child-policy-amid-shrinking-workforce/article10183574.ece

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