Image used for illustrative purposes only: In 2016, China had amended its earlier policy of one-child per couple to allow up to two children. Image Credit: Pexels

Dubai: China has ended its two-child only policy for families, BBC reported on Monday.

The South China Morning Post said in their report that, according to the seventh national population census, Chinese mothers gave birth to 12 million babies last year, down from 14.65 million in 2019, marking an 18 per cent decline year on year.

The census took place in November and December 2020 and the results were released in May 2021.

The decision to allow Chinese couples to have a third child was taken after a meeting of the Political Bureau of Communist Party of China Central Committee held on Monday. Xinhua reported that the committee said that implementing the policy and its relevant supporting measures will help improve China's population structure, actively respond to the aging population, and preserve the country's human resource advantages.

Among those measures, China will lower educational costs for families, step up tax and housing support, guarantee the legal interests of working women and clamp down on "sky-high" dowries, it said, without giving specifics. It would also look to educate young people "on marriage and love".

China had a fertility rate of just 1.3 children per woman in 2020, recent data showed, on par with ageing societies like Japan and Italy and far short of the roughly 2.1 needed for replacement level.

In 2016, China had amended its earlier policy of one-child per couple to allow up to two children.

"People are held back not by the two-children limit, but by the incredibly high costs of raising children in today's China.

Housing, extracurricular activities, food, trips, and everything else add up quickly," Yifei Li, a sociologist at NYU Shanghai, told Reuters.

"Raising the limit itself is unlikely to tilt anyone's calculus in a meaningful way, in my view." Zhang Xinyu, a 30-year-old mother of one from Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, said the problem was that women bore most of the responsibility for raising children.

"If men could do more to raise the child, or if families could give more consideration for women who had just had children, actually a lot of women would be able to have a second child," she told Reuters.

"...But thinking of the big picture, realistically, I don't want to have a second child. And a third is even more impossible." In a poll on Xinhua's Weibo account asking #AreYouReady for the three-child policy, about 29,000 of 31,000 respondents said they would never think of it while the remainder chose among the options: "I'm ready and very eager to do so", "it's on my agenda", or I'm hesitating and there's lot to consider .

The poll was later removed.

"I am willing to have three children if you give me 5 million yuan ($785,650)," one user posted.

Share prices in birth- and fertility-related companies surged.

- with inputs from Reuters