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China, worried about aging society, lifts law limiting families to 1 child

A Chinese woman caries a baby in a traditional basket on the outskirts of Chongqing, China, March 19, 2013..
A Chinese woman caries a baby in a traditional basket on the outskirts of Chongqing, China, March 19, 2013.. AP/Eugene Hoshiko

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.

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1
Anchor 2: Central Idea

Read this sentence from the section "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.

What main idea from the article does this support?

A

China will need more workers to care for its old people.

B

China's "one-child policy" has reduced the country's population.

C

The Communist Party in China runs the government and many companies.

D

Even after the change, China will have problems because of the old policy.

2
Anchor 2: Central Idea

Which idea is the MOST important to include in a summary of the article?

A

The Chinese government ended its one-child policy.

B

In 1980, China's leaders were worried about population growth.

C

Experts say the "one-child policy" should have been changed earlier.

D

When two parents have two children, the population stays about the same.

3
Anchor 3: People, Events & Ideas

Why did the Chinese government change its one-child policy?

A

It wanted fewer people over 60 years old in the country.

B

It wanted the country to have a birth rate of 1.4 children per woman.

C

It wanted young people to have good jobs.

D

It wanted to have more workers in the country.

4
Anchor 3: People, Events & Ideas

What does Wang Feng say about the policy change?

A

The birth rate in China is lower than in many developed countries.

B

The change of policy is good, but will not have an effect for years.

C

The wealth of China depends on having more young workers.

D

The rural areas have not seen much change since 2013.

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