BEIJING -- China has relaxed its decades-old one-child policy in most parts of the country due to worries that the country's fast-aging population will slam the brakes on economic growth.
In 29 of the nation's 31 administrative divisions, including provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, the policy had been eased by the end of June. A couple is now allowed to have a second child if one of the parents has no siblings.
The Chinese Communist Party enacted the reform in November, and Zhejiang Province adopted it in January, becoming the first to do so. It has now been applied everywhere except for the autonomous regions of Tibet and Uighur, where the one-child policy has been loosely enforced, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
Beijing was alerted by the drop in the working-age population of 15-59 since 2012, which experts fear could hamper economic growth. Those age 65 and older are projected to account for 22% or so of the overall population in 2040, up from 9.4% in 2012, according to United Nations estimates.
To avoid a sudden increase in the birth rate and shortages of hospitals and child care facilities, however, certain restrictions still apply in large cities such as Beijing, Chongqing and Tianjin. For instance, if the mother is younger than 28, the gap between the first and second child has to be at least three to four years.
In addition, amid rising education costs, as well as other reasons, more families are likely to choose having only one child regardless of policy. So, the eased rule will likely have limited effect, and is seen boosting the annual 16 million births in the country by just under 2 million.