Children cool off in the water of a park as a heat wave hits the city on July 16, 2021 in Shenyang, China’s Liaoning Province.

VCG | Visual China Group | Getty Images

BEIJING – Families in China can now have as many children as they want without facing fines or other consequences, the Chinese government said late Tuesday.

The announcement, in practice, ended decades of restrictions on the number of children any household could have as authorities seek to encourage births in the face of a rapidly aging population. Last year births declined 15% for a fourth year in a row.

China began easing its strict one-child policy about six years ago after it was introduced in the 1980s.

That meant for more than three decades that local authorities trying to meet population goals often took harsh measures like forced abortions and sterilizations. Families’ preference for boys, especially in rural, farming areas, resulted in a large gender imbalance.

Families who violated the one-child and later the two-child policy faced heavy fines and difficulties in finding a job. As recently as last year, state media reported that local authorities fined a family 718,080 yuan (US $ 112,200) for having seven children.

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