Lifting the one-child policy wasn't enough. Now China is scrapping its two-child policy and allowing all couples to have three children. It's part of an effort to counter an aging population and a declining birth rate—what has been described as a "demographic time bomb" for the nation. Coverage:
- The ruling Communist Party announced the rule change on Monday, reports the BBC. China put a one-child limit in place in 1980, fearful its population was expanding too fast, then lifted it to allow two children starting in 2016.
- But the two-child policy has failed to fix a fundamental problem: The birth rate continues to decline, with the number of births in China at 12 million in 2020, down 18% from the previous year, per the Wall Street Journal. It wasn't just the pandemic—that's the fourth straight year of decline. Meanwhile, the number of Chinese citizens 60 and older rose in 2020 to account for nearly 19% of the population, up from 10% in 2010. And the population of the working-age population, ages 15 to 59, dropped to 63% from 70% in 2010.
- Many young couples say it's too expensive to raise two children, let alone three, especially if they're also caring for elderly parents. The government promises reforms along those lines, per the AP. Among other things, it pledges to make it easier and cheaper to provide education and child care.
- Comments on social media were skeptical, particularly among the group popularly known as 996, or those who must work 9am to 6pm six days a week. “Every stage of the problem hasn’t been solved,” reads one post cited by the AP. “Who will raise the baby? Do you have time? I go out early and get back late. Kids don’t know what their parents look like.”
- The New York Times notes another problem: "More couples now embrace the concept that one child is enough, a cultural shift that has dragged down birthrates," writes Sui-Lee Wee. "And some say they aren’t interested in children at all, even after the latest announcement." China's population of 1.4 billion was expected to peak this decade and begin to decline, but census numbers suggest the shift is happening more quickly than anticipated.
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