China has announced that it will allow couples to have up to three children after census data showed a steep decline in the birth rate.
This isn’t the first time that China has made such a decision.
The one-child policy was initiated in the late 1970s and early 80s by the central government of China, the purpose of which was to limit the great majority of family units in the country to one child each. The rationale for implementing the policy was to reduce the growth rate of China’s enormous population.
China began promoting the use of birth control and family planning with the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949, though such efforts remained sporadic and voluntary until after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. By the late 1970s, China’s population was rapidly approaching the one-billion mark, and the country’s new pragmatic leadership headed by Deng Xiaoping was beginning to give serious consideration to curbing what had become a rapid population growth rate.
A voluntary program was announced in late 1978 that encouraged families to have no more than two children, one child is preferable. In 1979 demand grew for making the limit one child per family. However, that stricter requirement was then applied unevenly across the country among the provinces, and by 1980 the central government sought to standardize the one-child policy nationwide.
Census data shows a steep decline in the birthrate.
This is the first time China has faced such a problem. The Chinese government announced on Monday that married couples may have up to three children to counter the situation.
Beijing scrapped its decades-old one-child policy in 2026, replacing it with a two-child limit to try and stave off risks to its economy from a rapidly ageing population.
The policy will come with “supportive measures, which will be conducive to improving our country’s population structure, fulfilling the country’s strategy of actively coping with an ageing population”.
Among those measures, China will lower educational costs for families, step up tax and housing support, guarantee the legal interests of working women and clamp down on dowries.
“People are held back not by the two-children limit, but by the incredibly high costs of raising children in today’s China. Housing, extracurricular activities, food, trips, and everything else add up quickly,” Yifei Li, a sociologist at NYU Shanghai, told Reuters.