China to end limits on number of children a family can have: report

China is planning to scrap all limits on the number of children a family can have as early as this year, Bloomberg reported Monday.

Driven by concerns that the nation’s controversial policy is contributing to an aging society and gender gap and tiring of international scrutiny over the limitation, China’s cabinet is reportedly commissioning research examining the environmental, social and other implications of changing the law.

Proposals being discussed would reportedly replace the population-control policy — which prevents most couples in China from having more than two children and is believed to have contributed to infanticide, particularly of girls — with one called “independent fertility," and could be decided as soon as 2019.

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"It’s late for China to remove birth limits even within this year but it’s better than never," said Chen Jian, a former division chief at the National Family Planning Commission who is now a vice president at the China Society of Economic Reform. "Scrapping birth limits will have little effect on the tendency of China’s declining births."

"The policy shift will hardly boost the number of newborns in China," said Huang Wenzheng, a specially-invited senior researcher for the Center for China and Globalization. "China’s number of births will continue to drop dramatically, considering a sharp decrease in the number of fertile women and declining fertility willingness."

U.S. leaders have long criticized the policy's coercive measures to enforce birth limits, which include steep fines, sterilization and forced abortions.

China credits the birth limits with leading to a decades-long economic boom under reformer Deng Xiaoping, but it has also caused demographic imbalances, with many parents choosing to abort female fetuses, according to Bloomberg.

China has 106 men for every 100 women, compared with 102 globally, according to the CIA World Factbook.