China abandoned the one-child policy that has shaped society since the late-1970s as the ruling Communist Party tries to boost a shrinking workforce and manage the country’s transition to an era of slower economic growth.

The party’s Central Committee approved plans to allow all couples to have two children, the official Xinhua News Agency said Thursday, citing a communique released at the end of a four-day party policy meeting in Beijing. The move, which had been expected, comes after a previous effort to relax the policy fell well short of the goal of boosting births by 2 million a year.

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“It shows the party wants to take action as soon as possible, and shows there is no time to delay for China to modify its population policy,” said Wang Yukai, a professor at the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Governance. “They couldn’t wait for the legislation to pass next year. The leaders want the new policy now.”

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