Amid concerns that the falling number of working-age people could affect its global dominance, China will now allow couples to have up to three children. However, Amnesty International calls it a violation of reproductive rights.
As the world’s most populous country, prior to 2016, China had a decades-old policy of allowing couples to have just one child to control population growth. In 2016, the communist country changed the policy and allowed couples to have up to two children.
Now, the limit is being raised again–to three children per couple. The change in birth-rate limits was approved by President Xi Jinping at a Communist Party Politburo meeting attended by top officials. The announcement was made on Monday by state media, the Xinhua news agency.
The media agency said the changes will come with “supportive measures, which will be conducive to improving our country’s population structure, fulfilling the country’s strategy of actively coping with an aging population and maintaining the advantage, endowment of human resources.”
Over the past decade, China has been dealing with an issue many industrialized nations are facing: The number of people aged 65 and older is rising, while the number of people of working age is decreasing, NBC reported.
The decreasing birthrate in China presents a twofold problem. First, there will be too many old people and not enough younger people to care for them. This affects both society as a whole and the economy of a nation. Secondly, there will be too few younger people of working age to add to the economy and perform necessary labor.
For China, declining birth rates represent a third problem. It puts the global economic and geopolitical ambitions of the nation, now the world’s second-largest economy, in jeopardy. A dwindling population could affect China’s opportunity for economic domination and halt its foreign policy goals.
Recent census data showed that China’s population growth was slowing and is close to a standstill. China’s economic growth over the past decade is down 0.04 percent.
The two-child limit by the Communist Party in China is not the sole reason Chinese couples are having fewer children. A major reason for the decreased birth rate is simply the cost of raising children in cities, the BBC reported. This is a similar issue for many industrialized countries around the world.
Human rights agency Amnesty International said that even though the birthrate changes in China are an improvement over previous policies, like its predecessors, enacting such limits remains a violation of reproductive rights.
“Governments have no business regulating how many children people have,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, the head of Amnesty International’s China team. “Rather than ‘optimizing’ its birth policy, China should instead respect people’s life choices and end any invasive and punitive controls over people’s family planning decisions.”