Parents in China will now be allowed to have two children as Chinese Communist Party leaders begin reforming some of the country's strictest policies.
Leaders also announced that they will end the detention of citizens in labor camps under their “re-education through labor” policy as "part of efforts to improve human rights and judicial practices." Formerly, citizens could endure force labor for up to four years without a formal arrest or a trial.
For the last 30 years, Chinese families were allowed to have only one child. In some cities, parents could have two children if both parents were only children. Rural families could have two children if the first child was a girl. The preference for male children boomed because they carry on the family name and wil be responsible for the welfare of his parents in their old age.
China has seen a decreasing workforce since the policy was put in place, as well as an uneven gender ratio. There is a low birth rate in China and few women of marriageable age.
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While the average family has 1.6 children, 2.1 children per family is generally accepted as the number needed to maintain a steady population.
The policy has been criticized for local-level abuses like forced sterilization and abortion used by some officials to meet family-planning quotas, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The first of many under the new Chinese President Xi Jinping, the reform followed a four-day meeting of Communist Party leaders.
"More attention also needs to be paid to employment, income levels, social security and people's health," said a government document released Friday.
Authorities said they will also reform healthcare, continuing to overhaul the public hospital system, and create more community hospitals. They plan to change how doctors are paid in order to stop the rampant bribery and corruption in hospitals. Catastrophic health insurance will also be offered as part of the public health insurance system.