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The Telegraph

China allows couples to have three children in major policy shift

China announced on Monday that it would allow all couples to have up to three children as it grapples with an ageing population. The shift comes just three weeks after data showed a dramatic decline in China’s population growth, increasing fears about a looming demographic crisis in the nation of 1.4 billion. All couples have been allowed to have two children since 2016, when the government loosened its decades-old one-child policy. But after a rise in the number of births in 2016, the number of newborns has fallen every year since. Chinese say they are put off by the high costs of bringing up a child, as well as the rising costs of housing, healthcare and education. Pregnant women complain that employers discriminate against them, including demoting them, forcing them to resign or reducing their salary. Officials worry about a drop in marriages, a rise in divorces, and a continuing fall in the number of women of childbearing age. The three-child policy change was approved during a Communist Party Politburo meeting on Monday chaired by President Xi Jinping, the official Xinhua News Agency announced. “China will introduce major policies and measures to actively deal with the ageing population,” it said. Party leaders “pointed out that further optimising the fertility policy, implementing the policy of one couple can have three children and supporting measures are conducive to improving China’s population structure,” Xinhua said. It did not say when the change would take effect. Without giving details, Xinhua also said authorities would “strengthen guidance on marriage and family values among young people of marriageable age”, “improve the maternity leave and maternity insurance systems” and “strengthen tax and housing support policies.” Data from a once-in-a-decade census released earlier this month showed population growth slipping to a record low in the 10 years to 2020. Annual growth averaged just 0.53 per cent over the past decade, the slowest rate since 1953. At the same time, the number of over-65s grew and the number of people of working age shrank, adding to strains on the economy and society of the world’s most populous country. The public reaction online after the announcement suggested a lack of enthusiasm for having three children. “I suggest you first solve the basic maternity leave and workplace injustices that women have to face when they give birth before encouraging them to have children,” said one comment with more than 80,000 likes under Xinhua’s official Sina Weibo account. Another popular comment read: “If an only child marries another only child, they need to look after four elders and three children (and work long days). Even donkeys are not used like that!” A poll on Weibo shared by Xinhua asking readers their reaction to the news later appeared to have been deleted after over 25,000 responded that they would not consider having three children. The Communist Party brought in its one-child policy in 1979 as a temporary measure to deal with a then-surging population. But it lasted for more than a generation. The policy was enforced by forced abortions and fines, and blamed for a skewed sex ratio where men and boys outnumber women and girls. The government credits the one-child policy with preventing 400 million births and helping lift numerous families out of poverty. But many demographers argue that China’s birth rate would have fallen anyway as its economy developed and education levels rose. Additional reporting by Wen Xu