China is considering a gradual raising of its limits on the number of
children a couple can have, according to a senior official of the National
Population and Family Planning Commission.

The comments by Zhao Baige, family planning vice-minister, highlight growing
concern about the demographic implications of the strict and sometimes harshly
enforced population control rules that are a cornerstone of Chinese social

The so-called “one-child policy”, after the limit applied to urban members of
China’s dominant Han ethnic group, has been credited with preventing 400m births
since the late 1970s.

However, it is also leading to a fall in the proportion of working-age
citizens, which has prompted warnings that China will “get old before it gets

Ms Zhao, whose commission is responsible for overseeing the population
control policy, said Beijing wanted to raise the birth limits

“I cannot answer at what time or how, but this has become a big issue among
decision-makers,” Reuters quoted her as saying.

“The attitude is to do the studies, to consider it responsibly and to set it
up systematically.”

Early action could help slow down an expected rapid ageing of the population,
with one in five Chinese citizens expected to be over 60 by 2030, more than
double the current proportion.

Analysts have in recent years repeatedly proposed reform or abolition of the
population control policy, and it has been adjusted in some areas, but officials
have previously stressed the need for continuity rather than a possible

At present, 30-40 per cent of Chinese are permitted to have two or more
children. In most urban areas, parents who are themselves only children are
allowed two offspring, while in most rural areas parents are allowed a second
child if their first is a girl.

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