China scraps fines, will let families have as many children as they’d like

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Children cool off in the water at a park as a heat wave hits the city on July 16, 2021 in Shenyang, Liaoning Province of China.

VCG | Visual China Group | Getty Images

BEIJING — Families in China can now have as many children as they like without facing fines or other consequences, the Chinese government said late Tuesday.

The announcement ended, in practice, decades of restrictions on the number of children each household could have, as authorities attempt to encourage births in the face of a rapidly aging population. Births dropped 15% last year, a fourth-straight year of decline.

China began loosening its strict one-child policy about six years ago after imposing it in the 1980s.

That meant for more than three decades, local authorities seeking to meet population targets often took harsh measures such as forced abortions and sterilization. Families’ preference for boys, especially in rural, farming areas, resulted in a large gender imbalance.

Families violating the one-child, and later two-child, policy faced hefty fines and difficulty finding a job. As recently as last year, state media reported local authorities fined a family 718,080 yuan ($112,200) for having seven children.

“The government will no longer charge a fine for couples who violate the family planning law to have more children than they are allowed,” state news agency Xinhua said in English, citing a government document released Tuesday evening but dated June 26.

The document also called for better maternity leave and childcare systems.

The move followed China’s announcement on May 31 that families could now have three children each. At the time, many social media users criticized the policy change for increasing the systemic challenges women would likely encounter when pursuing a professional career.

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