Context: Policy-making in India has in recent decades been generally neutral to data and research. However, in matters of demography, particularly while prescribing strong punitive measures for having large families, decisions must be taken based on rigorous analysis of the data to avoid a China type crisis.
World Population Prospects 2019:
- It is released by the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
- The report has reported that India’s total fertility rate (TFR) has declined from 5.9 in early Sixties to 2.4 to 2010-15.
- By 2025-30, the TFR will fall to 2.1, sliding further to 1.9 during 2045-50.
- Overall, the world’s population is ageing, with the age group of 65 and above growing at such a fast rate that by 2050, one in six people in the world will be part of it as compared to one in 11 in 2019.
- By the end of the century, the world population is set to peak at a level of about 11 billion.
- India’s population was predicted to peak at 1.7 billion in 2060, declining to 1.5 billion by 2100.
Total fertility rate (TFR): Total fertility rate refers to the total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman of child-bearing age in her lifetime.
Replacement fertility level: TFR of 2.1 children per woman is called the replacement level fertility, which is the average number of children a woman would need to have in order for the population to replace itself.
Factors for the decline of TFR:
- Increased acceptance of contraceptives: As per NFHS, the period between 2005-06 and 2015-16 saw a decline in TFR but the use of contraceptives methods has not increased significantly. This may be partly true as younger couples are more likely to opt for these methods than older ones.
- Rise in the age of marriage: The NFHS 2015-16 records that among married women in 20-24 age group, persons who were either pregnant or had a baby at or before the age of 18, declined from 48 per cent in 2005-06 to 21 per cent in 2015-16.
- Higher education, increased mobility, late marriage, financially independent women and overall prosperity are all contributing to a falling TFR.
- Level of literacy: Bihar, with the highest TFR of 3.2, had the maximum percentage of illiterate women at 6.8%, while Kerala, where the literacy rate among women is 99.3%, had among the lowest fertility rates.
How the declining TFR can help in India’s economic growth?
- The decline in TFR would lead to reduction in the dependency ratio.
- The dependency ratio is a measure of the number of dependents aged zero to 14 and over the age of 65, compared with the total population aged 15 to 64. This indicator gives insight into the number of people of nonworking age, compared with the number of those of working age.
- According to economic survey 2018-19, the age distribution implies that India’s working-age population will grow by roughly 9.7mn per year during 2021-31 and 4.2mn per year in 2031-41.
- Thus, a reduction in the share of children and an increase in the adult population are important for achieving a high rate of economic growth since it will lead to an increase in the percentage of the working population. As per Asian Development Bank (ADB), India is expected to grow at least 6.5-7.5 per cent per annum in the coming three decades.
- In order to achieve the predicted growth rate, an increase in the percentage of women participating in the workforce is a must. Despite the declining trend in the percentage of working women, the trend of sharp decline in TFR and rise in age of marriage suggest that this is feasible.
TFR reduction community-wise:
- In 2005-6, the TFR for Muslims was 3.4 which fell to 2.6 in 2015-16, a decline of 0.8 percentage points.
- For the Hindus, TFR declined from 2.6 in 2005-06 to 2.1 in 2015-16, a fall of 0.5 points.
- The fall for Christians and Sikhs was just 0.3 percentage points.
Changing scenario in Muslim community:
- The population growth rate of Muslims has been declining since 1971 – from 30.9% during 1961-71 to 24.6% during 2001-11.
- As per the NFHS, the TFR of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh is 3.10, while it is 1.86 in Kerala which is much less than that of Hindus in UP (2.67).
- As revealed by NFHS data, the primary health and education has played an important role in bringing down TFR among muslim community.
- Educated Muslim women report very high unemployment rate is an evidence that the societal norms have been relaxed, permitting many more of them to seek jobs than the capacity of the labour market to absorb.
Conclusion: There has been talk of measures to control population, independent of caste and community considerations. However, the major factors that help in controlling the population growth are the education levels and primary health. Government should work towards providing these facilities with much focus on data and research before prescribing punitive measures for population control. A special focus is required on education of women that can bring down the population growth more effectively and at the same time increase women labour force participation in India.