China said on Monday that married Chinese couples can have up to three children, up from the previous limit of two, following recent data indicating a sharp fall in births in the world’s most populous country.
Many Chinese couples have been put off by the high cost of raising children in cities. According to official media, President Xi Jinping authorized the latest move throughout a politburo meeting.
It 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 ageing population and maintaining the advantage, endowment of human resources”, according to Xinhua news agency.
China will reduce educational costs for families, increase tax and housing support, protect the legal interests of working women, and crack down on “sky-high” dowries, among other things, it added, without providing details. It would also aim to teach young people about “marriage and love.”
“People are held back not by the two-children limit, but by the incredibly high costs of raising children in today’s China. Housing, extracurricular activities, food, trips, and everything else add up quickly,” Yifei Li, a sociologist at NYU Shanghai, told Reuters.
In 2020, China had 12 million births, dropping 18 percent from the previous year and the fourth consecutive year of declining births after an uptick in 2016. The data, which was disclosed in the government census earlier this month, was seen as a major factor in Beijing’s decision to loosen its birth restrictions even more.
The census also revealed a dramatic increase in the number of Chinese aged 60 and over, from 13.3 percent in 2010 to 18.7 percent by the end of 2020. In 2020, the proportion of Chinese citizens aged 15 to 59, which represents the working population, was 63.35 percent, down from 70.1 percent in 2010.