China is considering ending the limits it sets on the number of children a family can have, Bloomberg reported Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.
China's population is aging rapidly, with the number of births falling by 3.5 percent to 17.23 million last year despite the country's decision in late 2015 to relax the controversial "one-child" policy and allow couples to have a second child.
The State Council, or cabinet, has commissioned research on ending the country's birth limits on a nationwide basis and replacing them with an "independent fertility" policy, the Bloomberg report said.
A decision could be made in the last quarter of this year or in 2019, the report said.
"It's late for China to remove birth limits even within this year but it's better than never," former division head of National Family Planning Commission, Chen Jian said.
But he and others pointed out that the change will likely have little effect on the birth rate of the country.
"The policy shift will hardly boost the number of newborns in China," said Beijing-based researcher Huang Wenzheng.
"China's number of births will continue to drop dramatically, considering a sharp decrease in the number of fertile women and declining fertility willingness," he said.
China implemented its one-child policy in the 1970s to limit population growth, but authorities are concerned that a dwindling workforce will not be able to support an increasingly aging population. The State Council estimates that a quarter of the country's population will be 60 or older by 2030, a 13 percent increase from 2010.
The one-child policy also contributed to a sharp gender imbalance, with 32.66 million more males than females at the end of 2017.