China, worried about aging society, lifts law limiting families to 1 child
BEIJING, China — China has dropped its "one-child policy," which made it against the law to have more than one child. Now all couples will be allowed to have two children.
The change was announced on Thursday.
China's leaders have become very concerned about the country's aging population. The number of elderly people is growing quickly. China's government worries there could be far too few young workers in the years ahead to take care of them.
Population Growth Led To 1980 Policy
China's one-child policy was introduced in 1980. At the time, China's leaders were worried the country's population was growing too quickly. They were afraid of having too many people for the country to feed. The policy's rules were loosened somewhat in 2013.
Wang Feng is an American expert on China. He and others have warned for years that the aging of China's population could cause serious problems.
Right now in China, families have an average of 1.4 children. The United States and many other countries have more than that. When two parents have two children, then a country's population stays the same. If families have less than two children, the number of people goes down.
Now, Low Births Causing Different Problems
China's low number of births has led to several problems.
Compared to earlier times, a much bigger share of the Chinese population is now elderly. The government has been forced to spend extra money on caring for them.
The other serious problem is that the number of young workers has been dropping. China needs many young, healthy workers to keep its factories and companies running at full speed. The country could lose much of its wealth if too few people are working.
Change Will Take Years To See, Experts Say
China experts say the ending of the one-child policy is an important step in the right direction. However, they say it will take years for the effect of the change to be seen.
Wang called Thursday's announcement "great news." However, he said China will have to live with its population problems for many more years.
China's working population fell for a third straight year in 2014. The number of workers dropped by 3.7 million to 916 million.
The number of young workers is expected to continue dropping for years to come, even with the new rule change. It will take time for the added number of children to grow old enough to get jobs.
And China Continues To Age While Waiting For Babies
Meanwhile, the number of people age 60 and above will reach 400 million by the early 2030s. At that point, they are expected to make up a quarter of the population. People 60 and above now make up about a seventh of China's people.
The one-child policy was first relaxed in 2013. When that happened, couples were allowed to have a second child if either parent was an only child. In the countryside, couples were already allowed to have a second child if their first child was a girl.
The earlier change did not lead to much growth in the number of births. Many families were simply used to the idea of having only one child. Some families were also worried a second child would be too expensive.