According to state media, China will offer extensive financial and political support to encourage couples to have more children.

China plans to introduce new measures as part of its new “five-year plan” 2021-2025 to encourage more births and address issues related to its rapidly aging population and workforce, according to state media.

Citing experts, the official China Daily said on Monday that the Chinese government would offer full financial and political support to encourage couples to have more children.

“A broader population policy is being implemented to improve fertility, the quality of the workforce and the structure of the population,” Yuan Xin, vice president of the China Population Association, told the newspaper.

Measures include introducing more affordable kindergartens and easing restrictions on the number of children Chinese couples can have.

China introduced its controversial “one-child policy” in 1978, saying that efforts to reduce poverty and develop the economy are being undermined by rapid population growth, particularly in rural areas.

However, the world’s most populous nation decided in 2016 to ease restrictions and allow couples to have a second child to counter the rapid rise in the elderly and a dwindling workforce.

Some experts say it should now completely remove all boundaries.

“More research and discussion is needed as to when and to what extent policies can be further relaxed – whether all couples can have three children or whether family planning policies will be abolished entirely,” said Lu Jiehua, a professor of population studies at Peking University.

In China, the number of citizens aged 60 and over was 254 million at the end of last year, which is 18.1 percent of the population. The number is expected to rise to 300 million by 2025 and to 400 million by 2035, which, according to demographers, is putting enormous pressure on the country’s health and social system.

Based on current trends, the number of people of working age could decrease by 200 million by 2050.

Despite the relaxation of the one-child policy in 2016, the number of live births per 1,000 people fell to a record low of 10.48 last year, down from 10.94 in 2018.

Guidelines to suppress population growth must be replaced with a system to increase fertility, the official Legal Daily said, citing government experts.

“To proactively combat the aging population, urgent action is needed to reform our country’s family planning policies and free fertility,” said Zheng Bingwen, an expert at the China Academy of Social Science.

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