On Thursday, October 29, China announced that it would end its decades-old one-child policy, opting instead for a less restrictive two-child limit for married couples.
The communist government explained their decision in a statement released by Xinhua, China’s official news agency.
“To promote a balanced growth of population, China will continue to uphold the basic national policy of population control and improve its strategy on population development,” Xinhua reported.
It continued, “China will fully implement the policy of ‘one couple, two children’ in a proactive response to the issue of an aging population.”
Currently a third of China’s population is over the age of 60, and it is expecting that in less that 15 years the nation could be home to the most elderly population in the world, which could cause an enormous strain on healthcare and social programs.
The decades long one child policy — the enforcement of which often led to fines, loss of employment, and even forced abortions — has resulted in China’s large gender imbalance, as well as speculation of high rates of female infanticide.
The policy change still required approval from the National People’s Congress in March before they government can move forward with its implementation.
China has been gradually relaxing the policy in recent years, allowing certain minorities, and parents who were only children, to have more than one child, but many critics to the policy change have expressed that this minor change is not enough to make a difference.
According to William Nee, a researcher of China for the human rights group Amnesty International, “Couples that have two children could still be subjected to coercive and intrusive forms of contraception, and even forced abortions — which amount to torture.”
“The state has no business regulating how many children people have,” he said.