News Brief: China Eases One-Child Policy

The government of China has decided to ease its longstanding one-child policy, in response to declining birth rates and human rights interests.

A boy born under China's one-child policy

The government of China announced in November 2013 that it would relax the one-child family restriction that has been in place for more than three decades. Many provinces have made exceptions, allowing families to have two children if both parents were only children or if the family’s first child was a girl, or to have two children, without restriction, in rural areas. Under the revised policy, all families in which either parent is an only child may have a second child.

The decision was made in response to a rapidly aging population and a national birth rate below 1.04. Although this was an historic ruling — the first official, nationwide change since the one-child policy was enacted in 1979 — it may not bring a dramatic increase in births. Experts estimate that it will lead to one to two million additional births per year (the figure is currently 15 million or so births per year). Many experts and citizens in China see this as a positive sign, however, and hope that the policy may one day allow all families to have two children, or that limits on family size will be done away with entirely.

David Youtz, a senior consultant with the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, and the father of four girls adopted from China, has said that he does not believe this policy change will affect adoption from the country. “Children available today for international adoption are rarely in social institutions because of the One Child Policy — that moment has passed. Since around 2006, the great majority…have been relinquished—not because they are orphans, not because they are second sisters or brothers under the One Child Policy — but because they have special needs or…because of poverty and related pressures.”


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