The Chinese government is considering lifting all limits on the number of children a family can have by as early as 2019, sources told Bloomberg, putting an end to the four-decade-old social policy that has left China with a litany of demographic problems to deal with.
China’s State Council is conducting research into whether a lifting of the two-child cap will produce the desired effects of stimulating the nation’s birth rate, the sources said. The current law was introduced three years ago, replacing the previous one-child policy, but its relatively limited results suggest more dramatic action is needed. The birth rate fell 3.5% to 17.2 million in 2017, according to China’s Bureau of National Statistics, negating half of the increase caused by the new law.
The long-term effects of the one-child policy have been an aging population leading to a shortage of workers, as well as a significant gender skew towards males.
Some experts say, however, that cultural changes are the real factor holding back the birth rate. “The policy shift will hardly boost the number of newborns in China,” said Huang Wenzheng, senior research at the Center for China and Globalisation.
“China’s number of births will continue to drop dramatically, considering a sharp decrease in the number of fertile women and declining fertility willingness.”