China’s 36-year-old one-child policy may soon be replaced with a two-child policy

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Since 1979, China’s government has heavily taxed most citizens who have more than one child, an extremely effective method of population control that managed to more than cut the growth rate in half.

But the policy’s time is up. It was relaxed somewhat two years ago to allow more couples meeting certain requirements—such as one of them being an only child—to have a second child, and could be completely lifted before the year is up, according to analysts and a growing chorus of unsourced news reports from China.

The policy may be changed in the next five-year plan, which is due out after a meeting of top officials later this month, Francis Cheung, head of China and Hong Kong strategy for brokerage firm CLSA, told Quartz. The plan will focus on labor participation, investment, and productivity, among other areas, he said. Because of China’s aging population and declining work force, citizens will have to work longer, and the plan may include elimination of the one-child policy.

Think tanks advising the government on the five-year plan have proposed that a “two-child policy” be put in place immediately, China’s First Financial newspaper reports (link in Chinese), citing an unnamed source. According to the paper, the advisers include the CASS Institute of Population and Labor Economy, the Population and Development Research Center of Renmin University of China, and the China Population and Development Research Center. The nation’s top think tanks urged Beijing to “immediately drop” the one-child policy, an unnamed academic told the South China Morning Post (paywall).

The demographic argument for dropping the one-child plan has been clear for some time. China’s working-age population is declining, both overall and as a percentage of its overall population.

“Working age” in China is currently defined as up to 59, but that is expected to change, too.

Whether dropping the taxes on having a second child will actually encourage people to have one remains to be seen. Since the policy was relaxed two years ago for only children, only 1.45 million couples out of an eligible 11 million have opted to have a second child.