World

China sees smaller-than-expected baby bump in the first year after easing of 1-child policy

  • FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2013 file photo, women cuddle their child at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, China. Despite earlier estimates that new exemptions to China's one-child policy would add up to 2 million extra births per year, only 700,000 newly qualified couples applied to have a second child this year, a Chinese official said. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

    FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2013 file photo, women cuddle their child at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, China. Despite earlier estimates that new exemptions to China's one-child policy would add up to 2 million extra births per year, only 700,000 newly qualified couples applied to have a second child this year, a Chinese official said. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • A Chinese child holds a Chinese national flag near Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, China, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014. Despite earlier estimates that new exemptions to China's one-child policy would add up to 2 million extra births per year, only 700,000 newly qualified couples applied to have a second child this year, a Chinese official said this week. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    A Chinese child holds a Chinese national flag near Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, China, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014. Despite earlier estimates that new exemptions to China's one-child policy would add up to 2 million extra births per year, only 700,000 newly qualified couples applied to have a second child this year, a Chinese official said this week. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)  (The Associated Press)

  • A man carries a child near Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, China, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014. Despite earlier estimates that new exemptions to China's one-child policy would add up to 2 million extra births per year, only 700,000 newly qualified couples applied to have a second child this year, a Chinese official said this week. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    A man carries a child near Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, China, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014. Despite earlier estimates that new exemptions to China's one-child policy would add up to 2 million extra births per year, only 700,000 newly qualified couples applied to have a second child this year, a Chinese official said this week. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)  (The Associated Press)

Chinese health officials say only 700,000 newly-qualified couples have applied for having a second child this year, far below earlier estimates that an easing in the country's birth policy would add 1 million to 2 million extra births per year in the first few years.

Zhao Yanpei, a senior official at the National Health and Family Planning Commission, told reporters at a briefing this week that the number has been lower than expected but said it is too early to conclude how the new policy would affect China's birth rate.

Last year, China eased its one-child policy to allow couples where one partner has no siblings to have two children. Couples where both partners have no siblings have been allowed to have two children for some time.