By Ben Westcott and Eric Cheung | CNN
The Chinese government will allow couples to have three children, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency, the latest easing of strict family planning policies as the country tries to avoid a population crisis.
Senior leaders of the Communist Party of China made the decision at a meeting on Monday, state media said, in a move to tackle the country’s aging population.
State media did not say when the new policy would be implemented.
It comes just three weeks after Beijing released its 2020 census, which showed China’s population was growing at its slowest rate in decades.
According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, the population has grown only 5.38 percent over the past decade – the slowest growth rate since at least the 1960s.
China’s one-child policy was introduced in 1979, and for more than 35 years limited couples to one offspring as the country tried to tackle overpopulation and reduce poverty.
China’s economy has exploded in recent years and its demographic needs have changed. Today, the government relies on a large and young workforce to support high levels of economic growth.
To avoid a demographic crisis, the Chinese government announced in 2015 that it would ease birth restrictions to allow up to two children per family.
State media tried to gain support for the campaign. In 2018, Communist Party spokesperson People’s Daily published a full-page column titled, “Giving birth is a family affair and a national issue too.”
However, the policy reversal failed to raise the country’s birth rate, which fell nearly 15% year-over-year in 2020. Some couples said the rising cost of life in China makes having a second child too expensive.
At the same time, China’s population is aging rapidly, putting its economic growth at risk. Data from the 2020 census showed that the proportion of the population over the age of 65 has increased rapidly over the past decade, from 8.87% in 2010 to 13.5% in 2020.
The Chinese government has also discussed raising the retirement age in an attempt to deal with an aging workforce. Currently, men retire at age 60, while women can stop working at age 55 for white collar workers.
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