BEIJING — China has ended its one-child policy and will allow all couples to have two children, marking a dramatic change by the country's ruling Communist Party after more than two decades.
The liberalization of family planning rules, which were first eased in 2013, came at the end of the Communist Party's Central Committee meeting on Thursday. It was announced via state-run Xinhua news agency.
"China will allow all couples to have two children, abandoning its decades-long one-child policy," Xinhua said in its report that did not provide any details or time-frame for implementing the new rules.
The controversial one-child policy was put in place in 1979 and aimed at cutting the country's birthrate and slowing the growth of its population, which at that point was already the largest in the world. According to the government, some 400 million births have been prevented as a result.
Under current rules, couples who break the family planning laws face losing their jobs and being fined. In some cases, mothers have been forced to abort their babies or be sterilized.
An aging population and slowing economic growth rates fed calls to change the policy, and over time it was eased.
Wang Feng, an expert on demographic and social change, told Reuters called the new rules an "historic event" but that challenges remained.
"It's an event that we have been waiting for a generation, but it is one we have had to wait much too long for," he said. "It won't have any impact on the issue of the aging society, but it will change the character of many young families."
In 2013 when China announced it would relax the policy, many parents said they did not want a second child due to the high cost of living. A 2014 survey conducted by the Communist Party-controlled "People's Daily" newspaper found that only half of those permitted to have second child actually planned it.
This article first appeared on NBCNews.com.