China announces 3-child policy suddenly in radical policy shift

The news is sudden and met with strong reactions in China.

Belmont Lay | May 31, 2021, 04:59 PM

China's Community Party announced on May 31, 2021 that each married couple would be permitted to have up to three children, as recent data showed a dramatic decline in births in the world's most populous country.

Major policy shift

This marks a major policy shift from the existing limit of two children.

The change was approved during a politburo meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping, the official news agency Xinhua reported.

National strategy

The New York Times reported that the party said the decision would “improve our country’s population structure and help implement a national strategy to actively respond to the aging population”.

In 2016, China scrapped its decades-old one-child policy, which was implemented in 1980.

It was replaced with a two-child limit, as the government allowed parents who were from one-child families to have two children themselves.

But this failed to result in a sustained surge in births as the high cost of raising children in Chinese cities deterred many couples from starting families.

There was also inertia as having only one child was the social norm.

The one-child policy was initially imposed to halt a population explosion, which was predicted to cause a strain on resources and China was then experiencing an economic boom.

China population tanking

Early in May 2021, China's once-in-a-decade census showed that the population grew at its slowest rate during the last decade since the 1950s.

Its current fertility rate -- an estimate of the number of children born over a woman’s lifetime -- of 1.3 children per woman for 2020 alone is on par with ageing societies like Japan and Italy -- well below the replacement rate of 2.1.

Births in China have fallen for four consecutive years, including in 2020.

That year, the number of babies born dropped to the lowest since the Mao era.

Reactions in China

Economic pressures and an acceptance among many families that having one child is the norm have led to flagging birthrates, and experts do not expect significant changes from Monday’s announcement, NYT reported.

NYT also reported that reactions in China to the news is one of shock at its suddenness.

There were also complaints that the state is once again interfering with women's bodies.

NYT further reported that China’s rapidly graying population has started to impose increasing pressures on the state.

Monday's announcement was accompanied with news that the party said it would increase funding to expand services for the country’s retirees.

Top photo via Unsplash