China has announced that couples will be permitted to have up to three children in a major policy shift from the existing two-child limit, after recent data showed a dramatic decline in births in the world’s most populous country.
“To actively respond to the ageing of the population … a couple can have three children,” state media Xinhua reported on Monday, citing a meeting of China’s elite politburo leadership committee hosted by President Xi Jinping.
China’s fertility rate stands at 1.3 – below the level needed to maintain a stable population. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, there were officially 12 million babies born in 2020, 2.65 million fewer than were born in 2019, an 18% fall. Preliminary data released earlier this year, based on registered births, had indicated a year-on-year drop of 15%.
Earlier this month, China reported the slowest population growth since the early 1960s, despite scrapping its one-child policy in 2015 to encourage more births and stave off a looming demographic crisis.
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