China’s state media report that the Communist Party politburo decided at the start of this week to change the current two-child policy to a three-child policy. It is not clear when the decision takes effect, but it was taken after a drop in the birth rate showed up in recent census data (BOFIT Weekly 20/2021). China seeks to increase its birth rate and diminish demographic strains over the longer term by relaxing the limits on the number of children per family. The change is unlikely to have much effect as the 2015 replacement of the one-child policy with a two-child solution failed to produce a baby boom officials expected. In addition, China has long allowed exceptions to the child quota. It is curious that the party leadership still bothers to regulate procreation as the new rule only applies to a tiny sliver of families.
Starting a family in China is limited by a range of factors, not least that raising children is expensive even if couples manage to resolve the conflict of work and raising a family. Many city-dwellers also feel they lack the time to devote to child-rearing, even those that managed to have a child under the one-child policy. Rather than change the child quota, commenters in Chinese social media would prefer that the government focus on improving public services and reinforcing social safety nets to encourage couples to have children.