BEIJING - China's top legislative committee formally approved a loosening of the country's hugely controversial one-child policy on Saturday and abolished "re-education through labour" camps, state media reported.
The decisions were taken by the standing committee of the National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp parliament, at the conclusion of a six-day meeting, according to Xinhua news agency.
The widening of existing exceptions to the one-child policy will allow couples where either parent has no siblings to have two children, reforming the strict family planning policy imposed more than three decades ago to prevent overpopulation in the world's most populous nation.
The abolition of re-education through labour, known as "laojiao", will see existing inmates freed, Xinhua said.
"Their remaining terms will not be enforced any more," it quoted the NPC resolution as saying.
China argues its one-child limit kept population growth in check and supported the country's rapid development that has seen it soar from mass poverty to become the world's second-largest economy.
But enforcement of the policy has at times been excessive. The public was outraged last year when photos circulated online of a woman forced to abort her baby seven months into her pregnancy.
Now China faces looming demographic challenges, including a rapidly increasing elderly population, a shrinking labour force and male-female imbalances.