China’s ruling Communist Party will now allow couples to have three children instead of two in a drive to reverse its ageing population.
According to state-run news agency Xinhua, the change in policy was approved during a politburo meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping.
However, this appears not to have resulted in a sustained surge in births, with couples being deterred by the high cost of raising children in Chinese cities.
Monday’s change to a three-child policy comes after data from China’s once-in-a-decade census showed the country’s working-age population shrank over the past decade, while the number of people older than 65 rose.
The census revealed China’s population grew at its slowest rate during the last decade since the 1950s – to 1.41 billion.
It also showed a fertility rate of just 1.3 children per woman for 2020 alone, on a par with ageing societies like Japan and Italy.
“To further optimise the birth policy, (China) will implement a one-married-couple-can-have-three-children policy,” Xinhua said in a report on the politburo meeting.
The policy change will be accompanied 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 and maintaining the advantage, endowment of human resources”, said the news agency.
This will include phasing-in delays in retirement ages, it was also reported.
The announcement of the new three-child policy drew a chilly response on Chinese social media, where many people said they could not afford to have even one or two children.
“I am willing to have three children if you give me five million yuan ($785,650),” one user posted on Weibo.