By KATHERINE MOORE
After 35 years, China’s imposed policy for married couples to have only one child ended on Thursday, Oct. 29.
The decision followed a four-day Community Party summit in Beijing. China’s top leaders debated the fear of an aging population jeopardizing China’s economy. The country’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, announced that all married couples are allowed to have two children.
In the past there were some exemptions to the rule. Since 2013, China’s family planning laws allowed minority ethnic families and rural couples whose firstborn was a girl to have another child. In January 2014, China even allowed couples to have a second child if one of the parents was an only child. However, when the policy didn’t work, there were forced sterilizations, heavy fines, sex-selective abortions and infanticide. While the effort to limit family size resulted in a skewed sex ratio, China said the law had prevented 400 million births.
The increase of the child quota is unlikely to re-balance China’s aging population. Demographers predict that by 2050, 25 percent of China’s population will be over 65 and by 2040 there will be a 1.6-to-1 worker-to-retiree ratio. Many Beijing citizens express reluctance and indifference to the policy because couples in urban areas feel it is too expensive or too much trouble to have another child.
Although the new policy is a liberation of the three-decade-old restriction, fewer people than expected will be expanding their family. What will China do next to stop the aging population?