The Chinese state media have given the news that the country’s government is reversing its controversial ‘one-child’ policy a cautious welcome.

The new rules introduced by the government will mean that each couple will be allowed two children – but human rights activists say that restrictions on the number of babies born should be removed altogether.

The infamous historical policy – implemented in 1979 – is estimated to have prevented the births of around 400 million children. It was originally introduced to slow the birth rate and “facilitate economic progress” – one of the same reasons that is being given for the change in policy. The change is also intended to alleviate the issue of a rapidly aging society, in which grandparents are often left caring for children while parents work, though any effect the change has on this is unlikely to be seen for many years.

Previous loosenings of the rules have not resulted in an immediate rise in birth rates, largely due to the cost of raising a child, so it is unknown whether the change in policy will have any definite effect.