It’s looking increasingly likely that China will scrap laws stopping couples having more than 2 children

Children wave Chinese flags.

caption
Children wave Chinese flags.
source
Feng Li/Getty

  • Chinese state media suggested that China might abolish its family planning policies, and end the two-child cap on households.
  • The government previously operated draconian birth control policies: It issued the one-child policy in 1979, before relaxing it to a two-child policy in 2016.
  • China has appeared to relax its family planning policies in recent months.
  • The country is struggling with a severe gender imbalance and an ageing population.

The Chinese government may soon abolish limits on the number of children couples are allowed to have, the country’s state newspapers have suggested.

China’s leaders are considering a draft law that drops all policies to do with family planning, the state-run Procuratorate Daily wrote on popular microblogging site Weibo on Monday.

Bloomberg on Tuesday also cited People’s Daily, another state-run newspaper, as saying that the new draft of the civil code had removed all “family planning-related content.”

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress – an elite, 150-person arm of China’s national legislature – are discussing the new civil code this week, the newspaper added. If the law is approved, it will be submitted and passed in China’s parliamentary meeting in March 2020.

The elimination of family planning rules from new state laws suggests that the country’s restrictions on childbirth would no longer be enforced, effectively ending Beijing’s almost-40-year-old experiment with population control.

A family in Shanghai in 2015.

caption
A family in Shanghai in 2015.
source
Reuters/Aly Song

Chinese couples are currently allowed to have a maximum of two children. Between 1979 and 2016, the country operated a one-child policy in an attempt to clamp down on population growth, which had doubled over the three decades before.

While some couples were given exceptions from the one-child policy, the government generally enforced the policy around the country using draconian methods such as forced abortions, sterilizations, and fines.

Growing hints that China wants more children

Rumors that China is moving away from the two-child policy have been brewing over the past few months as Beijing scrapped the commission responsible for administering the two-child policy.

Earlier this month the country’s official postal service, China Post, debuted a stamp design for 2019 – the Year of the Pig in the Chinese zodiac – featuring a family of two pigs and three piglets. Previous stamp designs depicted animal families with two children.

Some Chinese provinces have also been actively encouraging people to get pregnant by offering “baby bonuses,” which countries like Estonia and Australia already offer. In the city of Xiantao, parents receive 1,200 yuan ($177) for having a second baby, the state-run Global Times tabloid reported.

In Jiangsu province, women are also given “fetus protection leave” in order to support national population plans, and are allowed to take paid days off work in their first trimester to prevent miscarriages.

China Post president Liu Aili, left, and stamp designer Han Meilin present a design showing two pigs and three piglets in Beijing on August 6.

caption
China Post president Liu Aili, left, and stamp designer Han Meilin present a design showing two pigs and three piglets in Beijing on August 6.
source
Du Yang/CNS via Reuters

Why China might be loosening up

The new policy change, if confirmed, comes as China wrangles with a severe gender imbalance and an ageing population.

There are nearly 34 million more males than females in China’s 1.4 billion-strong population, The Washington Post reported earlier this year. China traditionally favors boys over girls, and many couples insisted on having their only child be a son.

Authorities hoped that relaxing the one-child limit to two would solve the country’s demographic problems, but it hasn’t. The continued decline in births has been attributed to women delaying marriage and children in order to pursue their careers.