China formally eases one-child policy
China’s top legislative committee has formally approved reforms to the country’s one-child policy, allowing families in which neither of the parents has siblings to have a second child.
China’s official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday that the decision was officially sanctioned by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament, at the conclusion of a six-day meeting.
The changes to the policy had first been announced by the ruling Communist Party’s leadership in November.
Until now, the law has prevented couples from having more than one child, although there have been exceptions for couples who were the only children of their own families, as well as for ethnic minorities and rural couples, whose first child was a girl.
People in the Asian country have welcomed the easing of the one-child policy, which is estimated to apply to around 10 million couples.
The reforms are expected to take effect in the first quarter of 2014, according to a top official from the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
China implemented the one-child policy around 1980 in an effort to control the rapid growth of its population, but the law has become increasingly unpopular.
The country has faced alarming demographic challenges, including a quickly increasing elderly population, a decreasing labor force and male-female imbalances.
The easing is estimated to result in one million to two million extra births every year in the first few years.
China is the most populous nation in the world, with 1.35 billion people.