Newlywed couples attend a mass wedding ceremony in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, on April 30, 2016
China Stringer Network/Reuters
March 13, 2017 4:40 AM EDT

A lawmaker in China has suggested cutting the country’s legal marriage age in order to encourage more births, amid an ageing population and the relaxing of China’s stringent family-planning regime.

The country of 1.38 billion people currently enforces one of the world’s highest minimum marriage ages, allowing only men over 22 and women over 20 to wed. Huang Xihua, a delegate to the National People’s Congress convening in Beijing, has recommended lowering the rule to the international standard of 18 for both sexes, Bloomberg reports.

Beijing introduced the high marriage age in tandem with its draconian “one-child policy,” which was intended to slow population growth. The three decades of social engineering that followed have left China with a ticking demographic time bomb: a massive glut of of retirees and too few working-age adults to support them.

As well as mollifying the country’s looming population crisis, Huang told Bloomberg that the move would also extend the legal benefits of wedlock to young couples who, despite being in de facto marriages, cannot access social services intended for families because they are below the marriageable age.

In keeping with the revised “two-child policy” rolled out in 2015, allowing more Chinese couples to have a second child, Huang said that lowering the marriage age would also afford more personal autonomy to citizens of the world’s most populous nation.



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