China announced on Monday that married Chinese couples can have up to three children in a dramatic change from the previous maximum of two, following recent data showing a steep decline in birth rates, Reuters reports.
China has the world's most populous country title, with a population of 1.412 billion, per the national census held at the end of last year. The country had enacted a one-child policy starting from the early 1980s because its population growth rate at the time was regarded too high, and it sought to avoid a population explosion.
However, when the population began to decline, the government attempted to reverse the trend by allowing those who were from one-child couples to have two children of their own in 2013. The limit was raised to two children for everyone two years later.
According to CNBC, this did not result in a sustained increase in births since the cost of raising children in China stopped many couples from having kids.
This month was critical because China's National Bureau of Statistics was set to issue a census: The findings revealed that the population growth dropped to its slowest rate since the 1950s in the last decade. According to the data, the fertility rate for 2020 was 1.3 children per woman, which is comparable to aging societies like Japan and Italy.
The most recent announcement, which aims to reverse this downward trend, has been greeted with happiness by some, while a cultural shift and economical hardships have led many people to not wanting children. Many individuals also think that the news will have little impact on China's demographic patterns, according to The New York Times.
"The decision-makers have probably realized that the population situation is relatively severe," He Yafu, an independent demographer based in the southern Chinese city of Zhanjiang, told NYT. "But merely opening up the policy to three children and not encouraging births as a whole, I don’t think there will be a significant increase in the fertility rate. Many people don’t want to have a second child, let alone a third child."
China has also indicated it will seek to implement broader adjustments such as increasing maternity leave to make it simpler and more convenient for couples to have more children.
According to a 2019 United Nations report, India's population is predicted to grow by about 273 million people between now and 2050, overtaking China as the world's most populated country by 2027. However, because of the continuing drop in birth rates, some Chinese demographers believe this may happen sooner than the UN's forecast. It will take time to see if China's new policies are effective.