After 36 Years, China Ends Its One-Child Policy

It's officially over.

In an historic move for the country, China will be dropping its decades-old one-child policy. After a long, gradual relaxing of the policy, the government will now allow families to have two children.

The BBC reports that "the decision to allow families to have two children was designed 'to improve the balanced development of population' and to deal with an aging population, according to the statement from the Community Party's Central Committee carried by the official Xinhua News Agency on Thursday."

The decision could have major economic implications for the country. Quartz reports that it "may boost consumer spending, a primary goal of Chinese economic policymakers," in addition to "generat[ing] a smaller gender gap and a larger labor force."

Although some exceptions had been granted to rural families and ethnic minorities, in general, couples who didn't comply with the one-child policy could face harsh punitive measures. According to the BBC, punishments ranged from "fines and the loss of employment to forced abortions."

It's estimated that since 1971, when China first implemented population control measures prior to the OCP, 336 million abortions have been performed, as well as 196 million sterilizations.