BEIJING, China — China‘s ruling Communist Party said Monday it will ease birth limits to allow all couples to have three children instead of two in hopes of slowing the rapid aging of its population, which is adding to strains on the economy and society.
The ruling party has enforced birth limits since 1980 to restrain population growth but worries the number of working-age people is falling too fast while the share over age 65 is rising. That threatens to disrupt its ambitions to transform China into a prosperous consumer society and global technology leader.
A ruling party meeting led by President Xi Jinping decided to introduce “measures to actively deal with the aging population,” the official Xinhua News Agency said. It said they agreed that “implementing the policy of one couple can have three children and supporting measures are conducive to improving China‘s population structure.”
Leaders also agreed China needs to raise its retirement age to keep more people in the workforce and improve pension and health services, Xinhua said.
Restrictions that limited most couples to one child were eased in 2015 to allow two, but the total number of births fell further, suggesting rule changes on their own have had little impact on the trend.
Couples say they are put off by high costs of raising a child, disruption to their jobs and the need to look after elderly parents.
China, along with Thailand and some other Asian economies, face what economists call the challenge of whether they can get rich before they get old.