China has put an end to decades of its reviled policy of the “only child” and informed that it will allow all married couples in the country to have two, a measure with which it hopes to reverse the rapid aging of its children.

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1986 poster of a painting by Zhou Yuwei

Two-Child Policy

The official Xinhua news agency gave the news after the closing of the Plenary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, a four-day meeting during which its 205 members and 170 alternates agreed to the 13th Five-Year Plan. This important document, which will be published next year, contains the main guidelines for economic and social policy that the country will follow between 2016 and 2020.

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Source: VCG via Getty Images

In the text, Xinhua declared that China “abandons the one-child policy” and “will set in motion another that allows each couple to have two children as a proactive response to the aging of their population,” although at no time does it give details of how it will be implemented.

For months there has been speculation about the possibility of Beijing abandoning its controversial family planning measure, as more and more studies and experts warned of the “time bomb” that is brewing in the country.

Current Population

Currently, the Asian giant has a population of over 1,300 million people. The problem is that one part is aging rapidly while the available labor decreases at a considerable rate. In 2012, for the first time in decades, the working-age population – those between 15 and 59 years old – fell, and this trend has been maintained for three consecutive years, with a decrease of 3.7 million in 2014.

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Source: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Several studies, including one from the United Nations, estimated that by 2050 there will be around 440 million people over 60 years of age in the country. All agree that this amount will put enormous pressure on state resources, so they needed to reverse the trend as soon as possible.

Upon hearing the news, the prominent expert on the demographic and social change in China Wang Feng called the event “historical event”, although he acknowledged that the challenges of the aging population will remain. “We had to wait too long for this,” he told France Press, “but it will change the character of many young families.”