China's Communist Party says it will allow married couples to have up to three children instead of two in hopes of slowing the impact of an aging population.
The policy change will come with "supportive measures, which will be conducive to improving our country's population structure, fulfilling the country's strategy of actively coping with an ageing population and maintaining the advantage, endowment of human resources", Xinhua said.
China's one-child policy was introduced in 1979 and for more than 35 years limited couples to a single offspring, as the country tried to address overpopulation and alleviate poverty.
A spike in births following the previous relaxation to allow most families to have two children was short-lived, with many parents citing the high costs of housing and education as a limiting factor.
The announcement drew a chilly response on Chinese social media, where many people said they could not afford to have even one or two children.
Despite concerns about demographic imbalance, Chinese leaders hesitated to simply abolish the one-child policy.
Here is a timeline of the country's evolving family planning policy.
China's population of 1.4 billion already was expected to peak later this decade and start to decline.
Since 1978, China harshly implemented the one-child policy, leading to forced abortions and infanticides across the country.
"If men could do more to raise the child, or if families could give more consideration for women who had just had children, actually a lot of women would be able to have a second child", she told Reuters. Last year, China recorded 12 million births, Ning said, sharply down from 14.65 million in 2019 and the lowest since 1961.
The ruling party has enforced birth limits since 1980 to restrain population growth but worries the number of working-age people is falling too fast while the share over age 65 is rising, adding to strains on the economy and society.
China has a traditional social preference for boys which prompted sex-selective abortions and abandoned baby girls.
The 2020 number in the nationwide census was actually slightly higher than the 1.4005 billion in 2019 estimated in a smaller official survey published in February a year ago.
China, along with Thailand and some other Asian economies, faces what economists call the challenge of whether they can get rich before they get old.
The reduction in birth rate, resulting from the high cost of child up-keep in China, has led to more provisions by the government.
A third of Chinese are forecast to be elderly by 2050, heaping huge pressure on the state to provide pensions and healthcare.
The Politburo also said that China "will prudently lift the retirement age in a phased manner", according to the report of the meeting presided over by President Xi Jinping.