How Many Children Can You Have in China? Family Planning Policy May Soon Change

China may be lifting longstanding restrictions on the number of children a household is permitted to have, as the country looks to reforms its laws.

While the communist founder of the People's Republic of China Mao Zedong initially called on families to have as many children as possible in the wake of his late 1940s revolution, Beijing has regulated the size of households for the world's most populous country since at least 1970. The restrictions later tightened to form the One-Child Policy but loosened over the years, and the country officially embraced permitting two children per family just three years ago.

Nonetheless, the ruling Chinese Communist Party's official People's Daily outlet reported Tuesday that the latest draft of its new Civil Code would "no longer retain the relevant content of family planning," signaling a potential shift in one of the country's most well-known and controversial policies.

A woman rides her scooter with two children in Huaxian county in China's central Henan province on August 28. China steadily eased its One-Child Policy over the years and officially converted it to a Two-Child Policy in 2015, something it may also be looking to relax. AFP/Getty Images

The final draft of the code is reportedly not expected to take effect until 2020, but experts have long predicted that China would eventually lift the cap on how many children families could have. The One-Child Policy was first adopted just three years after Mao's death in 1979 and after the country's population boomed from 542 million to some 975 million since the new government took over 30 years prior. China feared that such growth was unsustainable.

The strict campaign was soon limited to allow a second child to households whose first child was disabled or female in China's deeply patriarchal society, and other parents were eventually given a break if they themselves came from single-child households or were part of an ethnic minority. Authorities continued to enforce the policy under penalty of massive fines throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century, even as China's National Population and Family Planning Commission announced in 2007 that the law now applied to about 35.9 percent of the population.

It was not until 2015, though, under Chinese President Xi Jinping, that the country officially adopted a Two-Child Policy in an attempt to address a number of social issues incurred by the law, including an aging population and a gender imbalance. The commission soon dropped requirements for parents to seek approval before having two children and, last year, announced that the revision had offered "notable results" with the desired rise in fertility.

A graph published by October 30, 2015, shows the changing percentage of China's population by age group. The decision to remove the One-Child Policy was partially motivated by an aging population. Population Division/U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Reuters

The decision to amend the policy to just two children, however, may not have gone far enough. China's population has continued to age at historic levels, and the gender imbalance and its social implications have also proved tough to combat. Other side effects of the end of the One-Child Policy in 2015 included a massive increase in the number of male Chinese children adopted by U.S. families and a sharp uptick in demand for sperm donations.

By the end of the century, China's population is actually expected to decline by nearly half a billion, allowing India to surpass it as the world's most populous nation. Still, a rapidly developing society and Xi's ambitious global economic plan have pushed the country to meet ever-increasing demands and putting an end to family planning measures may be a move intended to boost the country's future workforce.