China has decided to end its decades-long one-child policy, Xinhua news agency reports.
All couples will now be allowed to have two children, the state-run news agency said, citing a statement from the Communist Party. The controversial policy was introduced nationally in 1979, to reduce the country’s birth rate and slow the population growth rate.
However, concerns at China’s ageing population led to pressure for change. The one-child policy is estimated to have prevented about 400m births since it began.
Couples who violated the policy faced a variety of punishments, from fines and the loss of employment to forced abortions.
Over time, the policy was relaxed in some provinces, as demographers and sociologists raised concerns about rising social costs and falling worker numbers.
The Communist Party began formally relaxing national rules two years ago, allowing couples in which at least one of the pair is an only child to have a second child.
Meanwhile, India has increased its population drastically and will likely surpass China in the next 10 years.