The document said China would significantly ease its one-child policy, allowing couples to have two children if one of the parents is an only child. Currently, Chinese couples are restricted to one child except under some circumstances, such as rural dwellers, pilot programs in a number of areas and among ethnic minorities.
Enacted in 1980, the policy has been lauded by officials for taming a surging population from a years-earlier baby boom. But economists say it risks eroding China’s competitive advantage, draining its labor pool of future workers as the population ages and puts a greater strain on China’s emerging social safety net.
The policy has also come under fire for local-level abuses such as forced abortions and sterilizations—practices that are illegal in China but are sometimes used by local officials to meet their family-planning quotas.