China on Friday formally adopted the three-child policy, BBC reported.

The National People’s Congress formulated several new rules to encourage its people to have more children, such as striking down the penalty fee charged to couples with more than two children. Local governments have also been encouraged to offer parental leaves and boost child-care infrastructure.

Between 1980 and 2015, China allowed couples to have only one child. Upon violation of the limit, a couple was penalised. Several abortions were forced during this time. China had said that the stringent measure had led to an economic boom and prevented 40 crore births.

But in 2016, the government revised the limit to two children per couple, which was legally further revised to three on Friday.

The proposal for the three-child policy was made in May based on a census that is conducted every 10 years. The most recent census showed that China’s population grew at its slowest rate in decades. The country’s population had risen by 7.2 crore in the preceding 10 years.

China’s average annual population growth rate was 0.53% over the last 10 years – down from 0.57% between 2000 and 2010. This is the slowest growth rate in the country since 1953, when the census was first conducted.

The census also showed that around 1.2 crore babies were born in China in 2020, reported BBC. This was a decline from around 1.8 crore children born in China in 2016.

The total population in Mainland China, or the area under the direct control of the People’s Republic of China, was at 141 crore till November 1, 2020. Of these, 26 crore, or 18.7%, of citizens were above the age of 60.

“[The] population is not just declining but also its demographic structure is deteriorating with a growing ageing population, will serve as an important reference for China’s population and economic policy adjustment as well as plans to put off retirement, which may come in the next year or two,” a state media on the census data had said.

However, reports say the three-child policy has met with an unenthusiastic response since its announcement. Many Chinese couples had said they preferred not to have multiple children due to the rising cost of child-rearing.