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China to ease controversial one-child policy

Friday, 15 November 2013 - 8:15pm IST | Agency: PTI

China's ruling Communist Party today announced it will loosen the controversial decades-long one-child policy and abolish the dreaded labour camp system as part of major social reforms in the world's most populous nation.

The recently held Plenum of the Communist Party of China (CPC), headed by Chinese President and CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping, approved changes to the three-decades-old one-child policy allowing couples to have two children if one of the parents hailed form a one-child family.

The new regulation would permit millions of couples born as one-child under the stringently imposed family planning policy implemented since in 1970s restricting the population growth to about 1.4 billion. The new policy was aimed at addressing the rapidly ageing Chinese population due to the one-child policy.

According to last year's official report, China had about 185 million people above the age of 60 or 13.7% of the population. The figure is expected to surge to 221 million in 2015, including 51 million "empty nesters," or elderly people whose children no longer live with them, which makes it incumbent on the government to improve their social security management involving large amounts of funds. The old coercive policy restricted most of the urban couples to have one child and most rural couples to have two children, if the first child was a girl.

It was later relaxed to its current form, stipulating that both parents must be only children if they are to have a second child.

The social reforms package has come after sweeping new economic reforms were announced by the party to revitalise the world's second largest economy which had slowed down from double-digit figures to around 7%.

The Plenum consisting of over 376 members of the Central Committee in its four-day meeting held from November 9 to 12 has also decided to abolish the "re-education through labour" system as part of a major effort to protect human rights. The system under which people were condemned to labour camps for resorting to any protests drew flack both at home and abroad.

The decision puts to rest reports that Xi failed to get approval for the move to abolish it.

Also, the party has ordered to reduce the number of crimes subject to the death penalty "step by step". 

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