China will loosen its policy limiting most families to one child, a system to slow population growth that has been in place for three decades.
The country’s official Xinhua News Agency said Friday that the Communist Party released a policy document announcing the changes following a key meeting in Beijing this week. Under current rules, urban couples are limited to one child, and rural couples are allowed to have two children if the first born is a girl. The changes allow couples to have two children if one of the parents is an only child.
The one-child policy was introduced in 1979 in an attempt to curb an exploding population in China. Authorities have claimed that the policy has prevented 400 million births, but some independent scholars put that figure at closer to 100 million. Some studies have shown that the policy has led to a gender imbalance in China, where an estimated 30 million more men than women will reach adulthood by 2020.
The party’s policy document also said the country will end its practice of “re-education through labor,” which was designed to punish early critics of the communist party. Local officials have used labor camps to deal with people challenging their authority. According to Xinhua News Agency, that system will be abolished.