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China’s ruling Communist Party announced Monday that it is easing its two-child per limit birth control policy, allowing coupes a third — in hopes of slowing the rapid aging of its population that is straining the economy.
A ruling party meeting led by President Xi Jinping decided to introduce “measures to actively deal with the aging population,” the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The move “will be conducive to improving our country’s population structure, fulfilling the country’s strategy of actively coping with an aging population and maintaining the advantage, endowment of human resources”, Xinhua said.
It wasn’t immediately clear when the move would take effect, although the Politburo meeting discussed major policy measures to be implemented in the period to 2025, Bloomberg News reported.
The move comes just three weeks after Beijing published its 2020 census, which showed the country’s population was growing at its slowest rate since at least the 1960s, according to CNN.
The population rose by just 5.38 percent over the past decade, the network reported, citing China’s National Bureau of Statistics.
China’s ruling party has enforced birth limits since 1980 to restrain population growth, but worries the number of working-age people is falling too fast while the number of people over age 65 is climbing.
Restrictions that limited most couples to one child were eased in 2015 to allow two, but the total number of births continued to fall, suggesting rule changes on their own have little impact on the trend.
Couples say they are put off by high costs of raising a child, disruption to their jobs and the need to look after aging parents.
Comments on social media suggested that the latest change does nothing to help young parents with medical bills, low incomes and grueling work schedules known popularly as “996,” or 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week.
“Every stage of the problem hasn’t been solved,” a user said Monday on the popular Sina Weibo blog. “Who will raise the baby? Do you have time? I go out early and get back late. Kids don’t know what their parents look like.”
Another user joked bitterly: “Don’t worry about aging. Our generation won’t live long.”
Leaders at Monday’s meeting agreed it is “necessary to steadily implement the gradual postponement of the legal retirement age,” according to Xinhua.
It gave no details, but the government has been debating raising the retirement ages of 60 for men, 55 for white-collar female workers and 50 for blue-collar female workers.
Demographers said the official birth limits concealed what would have been a further fall in the number of children per family without the restrictions.
The Politburo said it prevented as many as 400 million potential births, averting shortages of food and water.
But demographers say that if China followed trends in Thailand, parts of India and other countries, the number of additional babies might have been as low as a few million.
With Post wires
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