China decides to abolish 1-child policy, allow 2 children

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
China Abandons One-Child Policy

BEIJING (AP) -- China's ruling Communist Party announced Thursday that the country will start allowing all couples to have two children, abolishing an unpopular policy that limited many urban couples to only one child for more than three decades.

The decision is the most significant easing of family planning policies that were long considered some of the party's most onerous intrusions into family life. The restrictions led to an imbalanced sex ratio because of a traditional preference for boys, and draconian enforcement that sometimes included forced abortions.

SEE ALSO: US economy slowed to 1.5 pct. growth rate in third quarter

A communique from the party's Central Committee carried on the official Xinhua News Agency said that the decision to allow all couples to have two children was "to improve the balanced development of population" and to deal with an aging population.

The move may not spur a huge baby boom in part because fertility rates are believed to be declining even without the policy's enforcement. Previous easings of the one-child policy have spurred fewer births than expected, and many people among China's younger generations see smaller family sizes as ideal.

See developments in the policy over the years:

20 PHOTOS
China one child policy
See Gallery
China decides to abolish 1-child policy, allow 2 children
FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, file photo, a child bends over in a public park in Yinchuan in northwestern China's Ningxia Hui autonomous region. China's ruling Communist Party announced Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, that it will abolish the country's decades-old one-child policy and allow all couples to have two children, removing remaining restrictions that limited many urban couples to only one, the official Xinhua News Agency said. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A woman gestures towards two dolls depicting children near a child in Beijing, China, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. The official Xinhua News Agency says China's ruling Communist Party has decided to abolish the country's one-child policy and allow all couples to have two children. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
To go with China-family-social-population,FEATURE by Neil Connor This photo taken on April 17, 2015 shows children playing in the schoolyard of the once-bustling Technical Secondary School in Rudong, Jiangsu province. Rusty padlocks seal empty classrooms and blank graduation certificates litter a dusty, silent school corridor in Rudong, a haunting glimpse of China's ageing future in a town which pioneered the one-child policy. One fifth of Rudong's million-strong population is above 65 years old, making it the first place in China to be classified as 'super-elderly', according to state media. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
To go with China-family-social-population,FEATURE by Neil Connor This photo taken on April 17, 2015 shows children playing in the schoolyard of the once-bustling Technical Secondary School in Rudong, Jiangsu province. Rusty padlocks seal empty classrooms and blank graduation certificates litter a dusty, silent school corridor in Rudong, a haunting glimpse of China's ageing future in a town which pioneered the one-child policy. One fifth of Rudong's million-strong population is above 65 years old, making it the first place in China to be classified as 'super-elderly', according to state media. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on January 19, 2015 shows a Chinese mother resting with her daughter while shopping at a furniture store in Beijing. China's working-age population continued to fall in 2014, the government said on January 20, as Beijing struggles to address a spiralling demographic challenge made worse by its one-child policy. AFP PHOTO/GOH CHAI HIN (Photo credit should read GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images)
A child plays near water fountains at a shopping mall in Beijing, Monday, July 13, 2015. Chinese authorities issued a yellow alert for high temperatures as a heat wave sweeps parts of northern and central China. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A Chinese woman cuddles her child in Beijing, China, Thursday, March 6, 2014. Late last year, China's National People's Congress eased the one-child policy. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
A woman pushes a baby carriage on an overpass in Beijing on May 8, 2014. China began to implement the loosening of its controversial one-child policy on January 17, when a province announced it has made it legal for couples to have two children if one parent is an only child. AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAO (Photo credit should read WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - APRIL 02: Young orphaned Chinese children eat a meal during feeding at a foster care center on April 2, 2014 in Beijing, China. China's orphanages and foster homes used to be filled with healthy girls, reflecting the country's one-child policy and its preference for sons. Now the vast majority of orphans are sick or disabled. China says it has 576,000 orphans in its child welfare system though outside groups put the number at closer to a million. The parents who abandon them either cannot afford treatment or feel an inability to cope with raising a child who has special needs. In many cases an unwanted baby is never registered so the parents can skirt the one-child policy if they try for another. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - APRIL 02: A young orphaned Chinese girl sits in a crib at a foster care center on April 2, 2014 in Beijing, China. China's orphanages and foster homes used to be filled with healthy girls, reflecting the country's one-child policy and its preference for sons. Now the vast majority of orphans are sick or disabled. China says it has 576,000 orphans in its child welfare system though outside groups put the number at closer to a million. The parents who abandon them either cannot afford treatment or feel an inability to cope with raising a child who has special needs. In many cases an unwanted baby is never registered so the parents can skirt the one-child policy if they try for another. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - APRIL 02: A young orphaned Chinese girl stands in a crib at a foster care center on April 2, 2014 in Beijing, China. China's orphanages and foster homes used to be filled with healthy girls, reflecting the country's one-child policy and its preference for sons. Now the vast majority of orphans are sick or disabled. China says it has 576,000 orphans in its child welfare system though outside groups put the number at closer to a million. The parents who abandon them either cannot afford treatment or feel an inability to cope with raising a child who has special needs. In many cases an unwanted baby is never registered so the parents can skirt the one-child policy if they try for another. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - APRIL 02: Young Chinese orphaned children eat during a feeding at a foster care center on April 2, 2014 in Beijing, China. China's orphanages and foster homes used to be filled with healthy girls, reflecting the country's one-child policy and its preference for sons. Now the vast majority of orphans are sick or disabled. China says it has 576,000 orphans in its child welfare system though outside groups put the number at closer to a million. The parents who abandon them either cannot afford treatment or feel an inability to cope with raising a child who has special needs. In many cases an unwanted baby is never registered so the parents can skirt the one-child policy if they try for another. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
In this photo taken Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, a toddler is lifted by two women as they stroll in Beijing, China. China has no intention of abandoning family planning controls soon despite announcing it would ease the one-child policy, a government spokesman said Tuesday, Nov.19, 2013 adding that the policy could be loosened further in the future. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A Chinese man poses with his son as they visit Tiananmen Square in Beijing on December 5, 2013. Beijing's relaxation of its hugely controversial one-child policy is an attention-grabbing first step, but it will have to usher in greater changes if China is to tackle its looming demographic timebomb, experts say. AFP PHOTO/RITA QIAN --- CHINA OUT (Photo credit should read RITA QIAN/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2013 file photo, women cuddle their child at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, China. Despite earlier estimates that new exemptions to China's one-child policy would add up to 2 million extra births per year, only 700,000 newly qualified couples applied to have a second child this year, a Chinese official said. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)
Visitors to the forbidden city, carry children holding the Chinese national flags in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013. Some 15 million to 20 million Chinese parents will be allowed to have a second baby after the Chinese government announced Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 that couples where one partner has no siblings can have two children, in the first significant easing of the countryâs strict one-child policy in nearly three decades. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A child looks at his reflection in a window in Beijing on November 17, 2013. On November 15 China's Communist rulers announced an easing of the country's controversial one-child policy as part of a raft of sweeping pledges including the abolition of its 're-education' labour camps and loosening controls on the economy. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
Parents play with their children at a kid's play area in a shopping mall in Beijing Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. In China, a law generally limits urban families to having just one child. They grow up as the sole focus of doting parents. How does this affect them? What does it mean to Chinese society if generations of kids are raised this way? Authors of a new study say the one-child policy has significant ramifications for Chinese society. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)
A mother carries her baby on a street in Shanghai on December 28, 2013. China's top legislative committee formally approved a loosening of the country's hugely controversial one-child policy on December 28 and abolished 're-education through labour' camps, state media reported. AFP PHOTO/Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

The communique followed the panel's meeting this week to chart the country's economic and social development through 2020. In recent years, it has been unusual for such plenary sessions to result in major decisions. They generally focus on economic topics and there was no indication that this one would take action on the one-child policy.

ALSO READ: 38 missing in the Aegean after migrant boat sinking

China, which has the world's largest population at 1.4 billion people, introduced the one-child policy in 1979 as a temporary measure to curb a then-surging population and limit the demands for water and other resources. Soon after it was implemented, rural couples were allowed two children if their firstborn was a girl. Ethnic minorities are also allowed more than one child.

Chinese families with a strong preference for boys have sometimes resorted to aborting female fetuses, a practice which has upset the ratio of male to female babies. The imbalance makes it difficult for some men to find wives, and is believed to fuel the trafficking of women as brides.

Couples who have broken the rules were forced to pay a fee in proportion to their income. In some cases, rural families saw their livelihood in the form of their pigs and chickens taken away.

In November 2013, the party announced that it would allow couples to have two children if one of the parents is a single child, the first substantial easing of the policy in nearly three decades.

ALSO READ: Police, state investigate cryotherapy death at Vegas spa

The government credits the one-child policy with preventing 400 million births and helping lift countless families out of poverty by easing the strain on the country's limited resources. But many demographers argue the birthrate would have fallen anyway as China's economy developed and education levels rose.

Moreover, the abrupt fall in the birthrate has pushed up the average age of the population and demographers foresee a looming crisis because the policy reduced the young labor pool that must support the large baby boom generation as it retires.

"The good news is, it is here. The bad news is, it is too little too late," said Cai Yong, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"It's better late than never," said Willy Lam, an expert on Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "It might serve to address the current imbalance in the sense that if they do not boost the growth rate then very soon, within 20 years or less, the working population will be supporting four aged parents."

More on AOL.com:
Ted Cruz dropped the mic by slamming CNBC for their 'cage match' questions
Manhunt intensifies for fugitive in Kentucky, Tennessee
AP FACT CHECK: The Republican debaters and the facts

Read Full Story

People are Reading