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No Quick Demographic Change Seen From China Two-Child Policy

FILE - Women push babies in prams through a Beijing park during a public holiday, April 5, 2011.

U.S. observers say China's new two-child policy will do little in the short term to change aging demographic trends in the world's most populous nation.

The Chinese Communist Party recently announced its new two-child policy, which will allow all Chinese couples to have two children.

If approved by the National People's Congress in March, the new policy will end the controversial one-child policy, which was introduced in 1980 to slow China's rapid population growth. It has been relaxed since 2013, allowing some couples to have a second child if either of the parents is an only child.

The restriction did control population growth, but it also caused the labor force to shrink gradually over time.

"Last year, the potential work force fell by a reported 3.71 million, almost 4 million, a significant number even by China's standards," said Steven Mosher, president of Population Research Institutes.

"At the same time, the over-60 population is exploding. According to U.N. projections, it is expected to more than double by 2050, reaching an astonishing 437 million," he added.

The newly announced two-child policy is a proactive response to "the issue of an aging population" and is designed "to promote a balanced growth of population," according to a communique issued by the Communist Party.

But American experts say the demographic trend can't be changed anytime soon.

"Those trends are already baked into the demographic cake, as it were,” Mosher said. “No spike in planned births, however robust, is going to offset the hundreds of millions of 'planned' deaths that preceded it."

Nicholas Eberstadt, the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, agreed. "China's labor force over the next 15 to 20 years is already born," he said. "Any impact that the slight change in coercive population planning may have won't really take place for decades."

Chinese experts and some U.S.-based observers have said the increase in births could spur more spending and consumption, boosting the economy.

Chinese authorities have predicted the new policy could raise economic growth by about a half-percent and provide the country with an additional 30 million workers by 2050.

If the new policy is approved, which is highly likely, Beijing says 91 million couples will be eligible to have a second child.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.