10/29/2015, 00.00
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China to drop its one-child policy

After 36 years, the Plenum announces an end to Deng Xiaoping’s one-child policy, which had been adopted to limit population growth. Changes in 2013 did not spurt hoped-for growth. Over the years, China’s demographics had become skewed, threatening its pension and welfare systems.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – After 36 years of violence, at a cost of 400 million abortions, the Chinese Communist Party has decided to drop its one-child policy. The announcement comes from the Party’s plenum, currently underway in Beijing.

The authorities had begun relaxing the policy in 2013. Now all couples will be able to have two children.

The one-child policy was first introduced in 1979 in order to boost the country’s economic development. Rural residents and members of ethnic minorities were allowed however to have two children if the first was a daughter.

The policy was often implemented violently, with hefty fines, forced sterilisation and near-term abortions.

In 2013 and 2014, the government “loosened” its policy to let some couples (those in which at least one spouse was an only child) have a second child, expecting 20 million new births in 2014. In fact, only 16.9 million babies were born.

By May this year, only 1.45 million couples – out of 11 million eligible ones – had applied to have a second child.

The figures reflect a surprisingly low level of interest. This, experts say, stems not only from the decades-old policy designed to curb the birth rate, but also from the rising cost of living and low paying jobs that make large families a near impossibility for most people.

No wonder then that the mainland's birth rate is 1.18 children per couple – significantly lower than the global average of 2.5.

Population decline has affected Chinese society by creating a gender gap due to asymmetrical abortion practices that favour boys, and touched the country’s economy by reducing its labour pool and overburdening its pension system.

For one anonymous analyst, this is “something the government has to deal with urgently”.

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