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China ends one-child policy, allowing married couples to have two children

China’s Communist Party brought to an end the 35-year-old "one-child" policy Thursday, when leaders announced that all married couples would be allowed to have two children.

In order to tackle the rapid aging of the labor force, as a part of China's next five-year development plan, leaders announced that more families would be allowed to have two children once the parents met certain conditions.

The decision to allow families to have two children was designed "to improve the balanced development of population'' and to deal with an aging population, according to the statement from the Community Party's Central Committee by the official Xinhua News Agency on Thursday.

About 30 per cent of China's population is over the age of 50.

Over time, the policy has been relaxed in some provinces, as demographers and sociologists raised concerns about rising social costs and falling worker numbers.

The Communist Party began relaxing national rules two years ago, allowing couples in which at least one of the pair is an only child to have a second child.

In1979, the one-child policy was introduced as a tactic used to slow the population rate and is estimated to have prevented about 400 million births.

Couples could not have a second child without facing a fine, which has increased tremendously over the last few decades.

In the 80s, to have a second child it would cost a family around 364 yuan (£37.47) and the largest penalty of that decade was about 2,000 yuan (£205.85). The highest single fine for an extra child was in 2013 when a couple paid 20 billion yuan (£2 billion) to have their second child.

The decision to replace the one-child policy with the two-child policy was among the few changes announced by the party and a fuller summary of the five-year development plan is likely to be released in several days.

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