The Daily Mail is reporting that the rule change is the first major easing of the policy since its implementation in 1980. The change was first announced by the Communist Party leadership in November but was only now sanctioned by the National People’s Congress.
Previously, any couple who broke the rules by having more than one baby faced stiff fines and sometimes forced abortion and sterilization. The draconian policy was intended to stem the growth of the nation’s population, which now stands at 1.35 billion inhabitants, making it the most populous country in the world.
Experts say the relaxing of the rules will result in one to two million more births per year, lifting the annual birth rate from 16 million to 17 or 18 million, a figure they say is unlikely to strain the nation’s health care and education system.
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