China has signed off on a Bill that will allow all married couples to have a second child, officially ending its one-child policy from January 1.
The ruling Communist Party announced the ruling in October which will allow all married couples to have a second child.
However, legislation maintains limits on additional births.
Reformation in 2013 meant couples could have two children if either of them was an only child – so China expected a baby boom of around 2 million babies per year, however due to limited income and higher perceived opportunity costs, there were only around 800,000 additional children born.
Initial amendments in legislation were a result of China's rapidly aging population with severe gender imbalances and shrinking workforce.
Rural families were already allowed two children if the first was a girl.
Ethnic minorities were also allowed another child too, leading some to dub it a "one-and-a-half child" policy.
The late 1970s one-child policy restricted most couples to only a single offspring and for years authorities argued that it was a key contributor to China's economic boom and had prevented 400 million births, News.com.au reports.
To enforce the policy, a dedicated national commission was implemented with a system of fines and sometimes forced abortions for violators.
The knock on effect from the policy led to sex-selective abortions or infanticide targeting girls, because of a centuries-old social preference for boys.
Critics are predicting the end of the one-child policy won't necessarily end forced abortions, involuntary sterilisations or financial penalties.
Chairman of the Congressional-Executive commission Chris Smith said that the new policy may allow for more births, but doesn't stop local officials from "pressuring or even forcing mothers to abort a child if the birth hasn't been approved by the state and is/or the couple’s third. Chinese families are still not free to determine the size of their own families,” News.com.au reports.
Women’s Rights Without Frontiers president Reggie Littlejohn said under the new regime, women will still have to obtain a permit to have the first and second child or be subject to forced abortion.
"It will still be illegal for an unmarried woman to have a child," she said. "Regardless of the number of children allowed, women who get pregnant without permission will still be dragged out of their homes, strapped down on tables, and forced to abort babies that they want."
Some are saying the new policy is "too little, too late", and will not address China’s looming population crisis.