China has decided to end its decades-long one-child policy, the state-run Xinhua news agency reports.Couples will now be allowed to have two children, it said, citing a statement from the Communist Party.The controversial policy was introduced nationally in 1979, to slow the population growth rate.It is estimated to have prevented about 400 million births. However concerns at China’s ageing population led to pressure for change.Couples who violated the one-child policy faced a variety of punishments, from fines and the loss of employment to forced abortions.
Over time, the policy has been relaxed in some provinces, as demographers and sociologists raised concerns about rising social costs and falling worker numbers. The decision to allow families to have two children was designed “to improve the balanced development of population” and to deal with an aging population, according to the statement from the Community Party’s Central Committee carried by the official Xinhua News Agency (in Chinese) on Thursday.Currently about 30% of China’s population is over the age of 50. The total population of the country is around 1.36 billion.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.