Why China Is Allowing Families to Have Three Children—and Why It Might Not Change Much

For the 2019 Lunar New Year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) selected a design for its government-issued stamps that raised eyebrows across the region: The stamp featured two happy adult pigs presiding over a brood of three smiling piglets.

The design created a buzz, leading to speculation by citizens and demographers alike that the government was on the brink of again loosening its family-planning policy.

But it took until 2021, under the shadow of a census showing China’s birth rate has continued to decline, for the CCP to formally announce that all married couples could now have up to three children. Demographers say the policy change may have some short-term impact but is unlikely to substantially right the country’s demographic challenges. Chinese officials are likely to implement other pro-natal policies in the coming years to address the looming difficulties presented by an aging population and diminishing workforce.

“This policy change will make little difference in China’s fertility rate because relatively few Chinese families desire to have three kids under any policy regime,” Lyman Stone, a demographer and adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Dispatch. “It remains prohibitively costly to have and raise children in China under prevailing policies and social norms.”

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