Beijing: China is steadily moving towards easing its once mandatory one-child policy as 29 of the 31 provincial regions in the world`s most populous nation have relaxed the decades-old law, allowing couples to have to have two children if either parent is an only child.
East China`s Zhejiang Province took the lead to green-light the relaxed policy on January 17 this year, said Yang Wenzhuang, an official with the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
Yang said Xinjiang and Tibet have not made the move yet.
The provinces relaxed the policy after the ruling Communist Party of China in a major decision last year eased the law to address the concerns over the looming demographic crisis threatening to reduce its labour force as a result of growing population of old people.
China introduced its one-child policy at the end of the 1970s to curb rapid population growth. It is believed to have prevented some 400 million births since then.
According to last year`s official report, China had about 185 million people above the age of 60, or 13.7 percent of the population, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
The figure is expected to surge to 221 million in 2015, including 51 million "empty nesters," or elderly people whose children no longer live with them, which makes it incumbent on the part government to improve their social security management involving large amount of funds.
By 2050, more than a quarter of the population will be over 65.
The policy restricts most of the urban couples to have one child and most rural couples to two children, if the first child born was a girl.
As of the end of May this year, about 271,600 couples have applied to give birth to a second child, with 241,300 of them having been approved, Yang said.