China's Communist party announced two significant policy changes on Friday, including easing its one-child policy and abolishing the practice of re-education in labor camps.
Under the changed policy, couples with one parent who is an only child would be allowed to have two children. The current policy only allows couples to have two children if both parents are only children. It also exempts ethnic minorities and those who live in rural areas.
"Launch implementation of a policy that when the husband or wife is a single child, the couple may have two children," read the decision that was published by Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua. "Steadily adjust and improve family planning policies."
According to Bank of America's estimates, the new policy would lead to 9.5 million more births a year. Quartz noted that China's labor force shrank for the first time in decades last year. More babies would compensate for an aging labor force and more people retiring.
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China also plans to end its "re-education through labor" system, which can sentence people to four years of hard labor without trial.
Activists and human rights groups have said the program allows the Chinese government to detain critics and dissidents without due process.
GlobalPost's Ben Carlson, in Hong Kong, said it had essentially become a convenient tool for local governments to silence and intimidate people they disliked.
Xinhua noted that the decision to abolish the camps was "part of efforts to improve human rights and judicial practices."
Xinhua also made note of smaller reforms announced after the plenum, including setting up an intellectual property court and reducing the number of crimes that could be subject to the death penalty.
The proposed reforms were endorsed by senior officials, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the Communist party's third plenum.
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