BEIJING, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- China will end its nearly 40-year national one-child policy by allowing couples to have two children without facing punishment.
The Communist Party of China made the decision after a four-day gathering in Beijing. The policy reversal was expected, as a previous effort to raise national births by 2 million a year failed.
"It shows the party wants to take action as soon as possible and shows there is no time to delay for China to modify its population policy," Wang Yukai, a professor at the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Governance, told Bloomberg. "They couldn't wait for the legislation to pass next year. The leaders want the new policy now."
The controversial policy was enacted nationwide in 1979 with the aim of reducing China's birth rate and slowing population growth. However, due to concerns about China's aging population, rising social costs and falling worker numbers, government officials began relaxing the laws in 2013. Families in which one parent was an only child were allowed to give birth to more than one child.
Some of those families have been embroiled in conflict as mothers choose to give their second child their maiden name.
The one-child policy has prevented an estimated 400 million births since it was implemented. Couples who had more than one child faced fines, loss of employment and forced abortions, among other punishments and social stigmas.