It appears that—in a fairly major reversal—China has ended its infamously strict one-child policy. Couples are now all welcome to have two kids.
That’s according to the New York Times. Word was handed down as Communist Party leaders wrapped up meetings on the country’s development plans for the next five years:
A summary of the decision by Chinese radio news said that officials had decided to “improve the demographic development strategy, and to comprehensively implement a policy that couples can have two children, actively taking steps to counter the aging of the population.”
Guess America isn’t the only country trying to figure out how they’re gonna take care of all these old people.
The policy, which goes back to the early 1980s, was applied most strictly to couples in cities. Enforcement was very controversial, both within China and internationally. The rules were loosened in 2013—if one of the couple was an only child, the pair could have two, for instance—but now the policy has apparently been tossed completely. But this won’t just magic away issues like, for instance, China’s gender imbalance, University of Nottingham professor Steve Tsang told the Guardian. “We are talking about between 20 million and 30 million young men who are not going to be able to find a wife. That creates social problems and that creates a huge number of frustrated people.”
How many couples will actually take advantage of the two-kid allotment is another question.
“I don’t think a lot of parents would act on it because the economic pressure of raising children is very high in China,” [said Peking University demographics professor Mu Guangzong]. “The birthrate in China is low and its population is aging quickly, so from the policy point of view, it’s a good thing as it will help combat a shortage of labor force in the future. But many parents simply don’t have the economic conditions to raise more children.”
The thing about demographics is you can’t just flip a switch.
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A Chinese child holds a Chinese national flag near Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, China. Image via AP Images.