China announces new 3-child policy amid aging population, declining birth rates

Two children wear face masks in China during the 2019-2020 coronavirus outbreak.
Two children wear face masks in China during the 2019-2020 coronavirus outbreak. | World Vision

China announced Monday it will allow families to have up to three children instead of capping families at two kids as its population ages and birth rates continue to decline. 

The decision to alter China's controversial birth policy came after a meeting with politburo, a top decision-making body of the Chinese Communist Party. The meeting was chaired by President Xi Jinping, according to state-sponsored media. But it is not certain when the policy change will go into effect.

China ended its decades-long one-child policy in 2016 by implementing a two-child policy, where women were forced to abort their children after they already had two kids. 

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“To actively respond to the aging of the population … a couple can have three children,” state-sponsored news outlet Xinhua reported on Monday, according to Reuters

The one-child policy was implemented in 1979 for economic reasons to limit population growth. China enforced this through forced abortions and sterilizations. 

Demographers have predicted China will eventually do away with birth policies, which will do little to reshape China’s demography, The Wall Street Journal relays

China's National Health Commission argued in a statement released Tuesday that the "three-child policy is conducive to improving the age structure of the population, increasing the supply of a new labor force, easing intergenerational contradictions, and invigorating Chinese society."

However, having one child is still the social norm for couples in China. The decision will not likely change China’s demographic trends, as most people do not desire to have more children due to concerns such as the cost of living, according to The New York Times.

Some mothers who have had to keep their third child a secret will no longer fear being punished for having a third child once the new rule is enacted. 

China is now encouraging birth rates to grow, and the government vowed to implement more child-friendly benefits, such as maternity leave to “protect the legitimate rights and interests of women in employment” and increase funding for the country’s retired population.

"According to Monday's meeting, the birth policy change will come with supportive measures, including improving prenatal and postnatal care services, developing a universal childcare service system, reducing family spending on education, strengthening tax and housing support, and safeguarding the lawful rights and interests of working women," the statement posted Tuesday by Xinhua reads. 

China is the most populous country in the world, with a population of over 1.4 billion people. It is also home to one of the most rapidly aging populations. 

Macrotrends reported that the 2021 birth rate in China is 11.159 birth rates per 1,000 people, which is a 2.25% decline from 2020. The country faced similar population declines in 2019 and 2018. 

Experts say this move came too late to reverse the effects of China’s quickly aging population.

“Opening it up to three children is far from enough,” Huang Wenzheng, a demography expert with the Center for China and Globalization, told The New York Times. “It should be fully liberalized, and giving birth should be strongly encouraged.”

“This should be regarded as a crisis for the survival of the Chinese nation, even beyond the pandemic and other environmental issues,” Huang continued. “There should never have been a birth restriction policy in the first place. So it’s not a question of whether this is too late.”

World Population Review notes how experts are concerned China’s low birth rate and aging population will damage its future economic development. 

The low birth rate and aging population make it difficult for the Chinese economy to grow. 

China also has a skewed ratio of male to female births since males are the preferred gender in most Chinese families. 

The Chinese Communist Party’s five-year plan unveiled in November revealed its plans to “optimize its birth policy” and “improve the quality of the population.”

China's birthing policies have long received condemnation from international human rights advocates, pro-life activists and religious leaders. 

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler stated in his podcast Tuesday that China's decision five years ago to increase the limit from one child to two "did not bring about any significant increase in birth rate."

"So now the Chinese Communist Party has decided the magic number is three," he said. "But it's also unlikely to have much effect the reasons for this are many. But at least some of the reasons are that China now has put couples in the habit of not having children rather than having them."

"China has now deployed its adult workforce in such a way that it will be very difficult for many couples to have any children, not to mention more than one or two or even three," he added. "But the other situation is something that's not unique to China, but China now faces the problem in a uniquely bad way. And that is the fact that it's far easier to tell people to have fewer babies with effect than to have more. It turns out that societies that have moved to trying to reduce population growth have been very, very frustrated trying to reverse the process."

Emily Wood is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

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