National People's Congress, a top Chinese legislative committee, has decided to a loosen the country's controversial one-child norm and abolish re-education through labour camps. The loosening will allow couples where either parent has no siblings to have two children and reform the policy imposed to check overpopulation in the world's most populous nation.
The abolition of re-education through labour, known as laojiao, will lead to the release of inmates. China faces many demographic challenges, including a rapidly increasing elderly population, a shrinking labour force and male-female imbalances. China's sex ratio has risen to 115 boys for every 100 girls, while the working population began dropping last year. The birth rate has fallen to about 1.5 since the 1990s, well below the replacement level.
The reforms are to come into force in the first quarter of 2014. China began re-education through labour in 1957 as a speedy way to handle petty offenders. But the system, which lets a police panel give sentences without trial has been abused a lot.