Should the state stop focusing on population control?

News: Recent NFHS-5 data revealed that India’s Total Fertility Rate has declined to 2 from 2.2 of NFHS-4.

Read here: NFHS-5 and its findings – Explained, pointwise
What factors have helped India bring down the Total Fertility Rate?

Women and their aspirations to plan and manage families have helped reduce the TFR. NFHS-4 pointed that women, on average, wanted 1.8 children. This shows the huge unmet need for contraception – `3% in NFHS-4.

There are about 16.4 mn abortions every year. This shows that people are taking family planning seriously. Education, particularly women’s education, has helped delay marriage and also imparted knowledge of family planning to women.

The efforts put by the government in educating administrators, policymakers in
controlling all 3 components of population growth – fertility, mortality and migration has helped bring down the TFR.

Why the decline in TFR does not signal population stabilization?

Kerala has had low TFR for decades, but it still has a growing population. It is because of population momentum and a large young population. Population momentum is when the population continues to grow and there is no negative growth rate. Moreover, data shows that 23% of women are married before the age of 18.

Should India adopt coercive population control measures?

India should continue with the current policy design. Data from Kerala, TN shows that TFR was controlled without coercive measures.

Even if certain states attain a negative growth rate, the migration will still balance the population.

What measures should be taken to balance the population?

– Focus on providing spacing between children.
-Focus on girl education and increase the age of marriage.
-Invest in ageing and improving the health of people.
-Adopting coercive measures might target one particular community and create disharmony.
-Propagate and promote temporary sterilization measures.
-Spread awareness about sterilization measures so that women don’t end up taking all the burden of sterilization.

What should be the way forward?

Formulate a comprehensive policy that also covers the estimated 600 mn migrants. This should be backed by increased budgetary allocations and take it beyond the current levels, which are 6% of the health budget. All these should be matched by awareness and behavioral change.

Source: This post is based on the article “Should the state stop focusing on population control?” published in The Hindu on 3rd December 2021.

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