China is dropping it's one child per couple policy, which has been in existence for thirty years. Couples will now be allowed to officially have two children.
A government statement says, "To promote a balanced growth of population, China will continue to uphold the basic national policy of population control and improve its strategy on population development. China will fully implement the policy of 'one couple, two children' in a proactive response to the issue of an aging population."
The announcement came at the end of a four day summit of senior Communist Party officials in Beijing.
China, which has a population of 1.3 billion people, instituted the controversial official policy of one child per couple to control population growth in September 1980 after years of "encouraging" people to have only one child had not worked.The policy was enforced through forced abortions, sterilization and heavy fines.
The announcement was foreshadowed over the last few months, by an advertising campaign which saw the removal of billboards around the country which depicted parents doting on one child, and replaced by ones showing a boy begrudgingly sharing toys with his younger sister. This theme is also being used in newspaper and TV advertising.
The move to drop the one child per couple policy was forced on the government because if it had continued, the country would have become home to the most elderly population on the planet in 15 years, with 400 million people aged over 60.
Even with the change, the aging population will place a heavy burden on health and social services and health care, making the world's second-largest economy struggle to maintain its growth.
Wang Feng, a professor at Fudan University and a leading demographic expert on China says, "China has already begun to feel an unfolding crisis in terms of its population change. History will look back to see the one-child policy as one of the most glaring policy mistakes that China has made in its modern history."
Wang says China's one child per couple policy was unnecessary and ineffective, since the country's fertility rates were already dropping by the time it was introduced.