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China Ends One-Child Policy, Families can now have Two Children

Update Date: Oct 29, 2015 10:43 AM EDT

China has ended its one-child policy.

The Communist Party announced on Thursday at the end of their Party meeting that married couples can now have up to two children. The policy was created as "an active response to an aging population," the Party said in a statement that was issued via the Xinhua news agency.

The leadership also talked about its desire to "promote balanced population growth, stick to the basic state policy of family planning and enhance population growth strategy."

The political move was made after years of criticisms coming from scholars, who argued that the policy, introduced during the late 1970s, is directly responsible for the nation's shrinking labor pool. The scholars also stated that the one-child policy is outdated.

In 2012, the working age population fell for the very first time in China and has continued to fall. In 2014, the working population dropped from 3.7 million to 916 million and will continue to fall at a rapid rate.

While the working age population continues to decline, the number of people at 60-years-old and above continues to rise. Based on the United Nations' forecasts, by the early 2030s, the number of people aged 60 and above is expected to reach 400 million.

Without a large enough labor pool, caring for the nations' growing number of seniors could put a lot of strain on the country's economy.

"It's an event that we have been waiting for for a generation, but it is one we have had to wait much too long for," expert Wang Feng from the University of California at Irvine said reported by Reuters. "It won't have any impact on the issue of the aging society, but it will change the character of many young families."

Wang added that the effects of the policy would not be felt until at least a generation and that for decades, China "will have to live with the aftermath of this costly policy."

Peng Xizhe, a population professor at Fudan University, commented reported by The Washington Post, "The reform will slightly slow down China's ageing society but it won't reverse it. It will ease the labor shortage in the long term, but in the short term it may increase the shortage because more women might stop work to give birth."

The one-child policy was introduced as a way to alleviate the country's economic, social and environmental pressures that were being caused by a growing population. Throughout the years, the policy was eased numerous times. For example, some couples were allowed to have a second child if their first one was a girl. In 2013, couples were allowed to have a second child if one of the spouses was an only-child. Many of the couples that fit these requirements, however, did not have another child due to financial problems.

There are currently no details in regards to when the policy will take effect and how it will be implemented.

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