Travelers wait in the main hall of the Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station in Shanghai, China. (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

China to Abandon Population Target as Birth Policies Loosen

(Bloomberg) -- China won’t set a population target in the future and give people more freedom around childbirth, a health official said, in the next step a gradual loosening of decades of tight population-control policies.

A senior official overseeing birth policy explained the changes last week to a United Nations conference held in Beijing, Chinese media Caixin reported Tuesday, without elaborating. Wei Yunpeng, deputy director of the Population Monitoring and Family Development Division of the National Health Commission, was speaking at a conference hosted by his administration and the United Nations Population Fund.

Wei’s comments are the latest sign that the government is moving to end decades of restrictive birth-control policies, fueling speculation that China may announce removing birth limits at an upcoming meeting of the Communist Party Central Committee. Parliament removed “family planning” policies from the latest draft of a revised civil code slated for adoption in 2020, another signal that the policy is being eliminated.

“It’s not strange that an official would say this because fully liberalizing fertility is the direction of birth policy reform,” said He Yafu, an independent demographer based in Guangdong and long-time advocate for policy changes. “In the future, China will not only remove birth limits, but will encourage childbirth.”

China to Abandon Population Target as Birth Policies Loosen

The government abandoned the decades-old one-child policy in 2016 and moved to a two-child policy. Bloomberg reported in May that the country was planning to scrap birth limits altogether as soon as this year. It would be a landmark end to a much criticized policy -- one of history’s biggest social experiments -- that slowed China’s rapid population growth but left the country with a worker shortage and an aging population with 30 million fewer women than men.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Dandan Li in Beijing at dli395@bloomberg.net

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