China's ruling Communist Party will ease birth limits to allow all couples to have three children instead of two to cope with the rapid rise in the average age of its population, a state news agency said today.
China's population now stands at approximately 1.41 billion, according to the country's latest census.
Couples say they are put off by high costs of raising a child, disruption to their jobs and the need to look after elderly parents.
Beijing scrapped its decades-old one-child policy in 2016, replacing it with a two-child limit to try and stave off risks to its economy from a rapidly aging population.
"To further optimize the birth policy, (China) will implement a one-married-couple-can-have-three-children policy", Xinhua said in a report on the meeting.More news: FM Qureshi lauds launch of open-ended United Nations probe into Palestine violence
A ruling party meeting led by President Xi Jinping made a decision to introduce "measures to actively deal with the aging population", the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Data also showed a fertility rate of just 1.3 children per woman for 2020 alone, on a par with aging societies like Japan and Italy.
China's politburo also said on Monday that it would phase in delays in retirement ages, but did not provide any details. I go out early and get back late.
"It doesn't take published census data to determine that China is facing a massive drop in births", said Huang Wenzheng, a demography expert at the Center for China and Globalisation, a Beijing-based think-tank.
The demographic shift in China has significant economic and political implications for the world's second biggest economy.More news: California to give US$116.5 mil in prizes for vaccinations
The share of working-age people 15 to 59 in the population fell to 63.3 per cent previous year from 70.1 per cent a decade earlier.
Despite government efforts to encourage couples to have children, China's annual births have continued to plummet to a record low of 12 million in 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics said last month.
China's fertility rate stands at 1.3 - below the level needed to maintain a stable population, the figures revealed.
However, the policy reversal failed to raise the country's birth rate, which fell by nearly 15% year-on-year in 2020. But that failed to result in a sustained surge in births given the high cost of raising children in Chinese cities, a challenge that persists to this day.
Falling marriage rates in recent years have played out in slower birth rates, as have rising costs of living and increasingly empowered and educated women delaying or avoiding childbirth. Young people could have two kids at most.More news: Cummings opens fire on ministers over pandemic
"To actively respond to the ageing population. a couple can have three children", state media Xinhua reported. The group aged 65 and older grew to 13.5 per cent from 8.9 per cent.