A Chinese government organization is saying that the time is ripe for the Asian country to start phasing out its controversial one-child policy and allow at least two-child households for every family by 2015, with all birth limits to be dropped by 2020.
"China has paid a huge political and social cost for the policy, as it has resulted in social conflict, high administrative costs and led indirectly to a long-term gender imbalance at birth," said Xie Meng, a press official for the China Development Research Foundation.
China, which is the world's most populous nation with over 1 billion people, has had the policy in place for a large portion of the population since 1978. Its reasoning behind the one-child limit is to control population growth and reduce the number of poor and government-dependent people in the country.
Many have said, however, that other options need to be explored rather than the government getting in the way of natural family planning and development. China's National Population and Family Planning Commission, the organization which sustains the controversial policy, did not immediately respond to the report released by the China Development Research Foundation, The Associated Press shared.
Cai Yong, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has said that although it cannot be known how soon China will agree to change its rule, this new development proves that change is coming.
"That tells us at least that policy change is inevitable, it's coming," Chai said, who is currently a visiting scholar at Fudan University in Shanghai. "It's coming, but we cannot predict when exactly it will come."
Although popularly known as the one-child policy, there are several exceptions to the rule. For example, rural families are allowed to have two children if the first born is a girl, or if both parents came from single-child households themselves.
While many in China have expressed their desire to see the policy changed, a once-in-a-decade change of government that is coming this November may put those plans on hold. Cai said that it is possible the new government will put such wide-scale reform on the back burner while things settle down, and it is not known how willing the new leaders will be to relax or eliminate the policies.
China has defended its policy as having a positive effect on the economy, helping many come out of poverty – but Christians and human rights activists have said that forced abortions and sterilizations have resulted in the strict implementations of these rules.
The government has tried to reward families whose only child is a girl with certain benefits, in order to stem the growing problem of couples choosing to have a male heir instead – but citizens are saying it is time to get rid of these rules all together and give families the right to make their own decisions again.
"They should have reformed this policy ages ago," said Gu Baochang, a professor of demography at Beijing's Renmin University. "It just keeps getting held up, delayed."