The announcement was made at the close of a party meeting focused on financial reforms and maintaining growth at a time of heightened concerns over the country’s economy.

China will “fully implement a policy of allowing each couple to have two children as an active response to an ageing population”, the party said in a statement published by Xinhua news agency.

There were no immediate details on the new policy or a timeframe for its implementation.

For months there has been speculation that Beijing was preparing to abandon the divisive family planning rule, which was introduced by Communist leaders in 1980 amid fears of a population boom.