China will ease family planning restrictions to allow all couples to have two children after decades of a strict one-child policy, the ruling Communist Party said on Thursday, a move aimed at alleviating demographic strains on the economy.
The policy is a major liberalization of the country’s family planning restrictions, already eased in late 2013 when Beijing said it would allow more families to have two children when the parents met certain conditions.
A growing number of scholars had urged the government to reform the rules, introduced in the late 1970s to prevent population growth spiraling out of control, but now regarded as outdated and responsible for shrinking China’s labor pool.
For the first time in decades the working age population fell in 2012, and China, the world’s most populous nation, could be the first country in the world to get old before it gets rich.
By around the middle of this century, one in every three Chinese is forecast to be over 60, with a dwindling proportion of working adults to support them.
The announcement was made at the close of a key Party meeting focused on financial reforms and maintaining growth between 2016 and 2020 amid concerns over the country’s slowing economy.
China will “fully implement a policy of allowing each couple to have two children as an active response to an aging population”, the party said in a statement carried by the official Xinhua news agency.
There were no immediate details on the new policy or a time frame for implementation.