China's ruling Communist Party announced Thursday that it will abolish the country's decades-old one-child policy and allow all couples to have two children, removing remaining restrictions that limited many urban couples to only one, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
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Xinhua said on its microblog that the decision to allow all couples to have two children was "to improve the balanced development of population" and to deal with an aging population.
The decision does away with an unpopular policy that was long considered one of the party's most onerous intrusions into family life.
The decision was contained in a Communist Party communique that followed a meeting of the party's Central Committee on planning the country's economic and social development through 2020. In recent years, it has been unusual for such plenary sessions to result in major decisions. They generally focus on economic topics and there was no indication that this one would take action on the one-child policy.
The country has been moving in recent years toward easing family planning restrictions that were introduced in 1979 as a temporary measure to curb a surging population and limit demands for water and other resources. After the policy was first implemented, rural couples were soon allowed two children if their first-born was a girl.
In November 2013, the party announced that it would allow couples to have two children if one of the parents is a single child, the first substantial easing of the policy in nearly three decades.
The decision announced Thursday removes all remaining restrictions limiting couples to only one child.