Birth rates in China has risen to their highest level since 2000 last year, despite a fall in the number of women of childbearing age.
The increase follows the relaxation of China’s strict one-child policy a year ago.
There were 17.86 million births in 2016, an 7.9 per cent increase on 2015, according to National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) statistics.
Chinese officials credited the one-child policy with reducing overpopulation, poverty and environmental degradation.
“The long-term effect of the universal second-child policy is very helpful to China’s sustainable development,” said Yuan Xin, a professor of population studies at Nankai University in Tianjin.
By 2050, the policy is expected to bring about an extra 30 million working-age people and reduce the nation’s aging rate by 2 percent, the commission projections show.
Separate data by China’s National Bureau of Statistics counted a slightly higher figure of 18.46 million births in 2016.