With over 43 million people, the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning is the most populous in the region. Despite this, slow fertility rates has prompted its provincial government to consider foregoing its current two-child policy to allow couples to have a third child.
Liaoning’s efforts to combat its population issues is a microcosm of a broader fight that China is waging. The country has the world’s most rapidly aging population in modern history, born in part by its controversial one-child policy. The policy existed for almost 40 years before it was scrapped in 2015 as birth rates started to fall.
Liaoning’s birth rate dropped to 6.39 per 1000 in 2018, significantly lower than the national average of 10.94. It’s the second consecutive year that birth rates in the province have fallen to an all-time low. Compounding the effects of the one-child policy is the steady exodus of young residents who are leaving Liaoning for other parts of China.
By 2050, there will be 330 million people over the age of 65 throughout the country. This will have undeniable consequences to China’s economy, from a shrinking workforce to unsustainable debt, according to a report by TIME Magazine. The country is reportedly combating low birth rates by encouraging relationships and earlier marriages. Liaoning's workforce, like other regions, has already been impacted by the decline, which explains why the provincial government is so keen to soften its harsh population constraints.
Now, the it has announced that it is prioritizing a number of revisions to its family planning regulations. This includes giving out additional financial support to families with two children and also allowing some couples in “border areas” to have three children. TIME Magazine's report, however, suggests that the country might do away with child restrictions entirely. A draft civil code published in 2018 is said to have left out any mention of “family planning.”
This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.