The most populous nation in the world, China, since the past two and a half decades, has also been running one of the strictest public programme for population control. China’s infamous “one-child” policy—under which couples with more than one child were heavily taxed—has been extremely effective, cutting the population growth rate by half since 1979. But the policy’s time has been up for some time now. China’s 930-million strong labour force shrank for the first time in 2012, and by 2025, it will be losing 10 million a year. For a country that has reaped the benefits of being the world’s largest human resource reserve for decades, it could translate into a precipitous decline in productivity. Though China had begun rolling back the “one-child” policy—in 2013, it allowed urban, Han Chinese families in which either of the parent was an only child to have a second child—it is only now that it has indicated that it is ready to shift to a “two-child” policy, as per a report in Quartz. Rural, non-Han families or those in which both parents were only children were already allowed to have a second child. However, since 2013, only 1.45 million couples of the 11 million eligible have opted for a second child.
Apart from being a relief for citizens, who would have had to push back retirement to stem the decline in the workforce or work longer hours, a two-child policy could also mean a consumption boost for the country, which is keen on “rebalancing”—moving away from exports-led growth to domestic consumption-led growth. It would also help improve the gender gap in the country—China’s son-preference, along with the one-child policy, had resulted in high incidence of female foeticide.