The story of India’s falling fertility rate, in five charts

What is the news?

According to the latest round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 2019-21), India’s Total Fertility Rates (TFR) has reached 2.0 at the national level. Achievement of TFR is a significant feat for the country’s family-planning programme.

Must read: NFHS-5 and its findings – Explained, pointwise
About the data on NFHS-5 on population
Source: Livemint

Urban-Rural Gap: Rural areas have always had far greater fertility rates than urban areas. But that gap seems to be closing. For the first time, rural India has finally reached the replacement-level mark (2.1) in 2019-21 NFHS. Urban India had reached the mark in the 2005-06 survey.

Fertility Age: The trend of marrying late is more common in cities. As women marry later, fertility has been declining across younger age groups. The biggest change was noted in the 15-19 age group, with a marked decline in teenage pregnancies over the years.

The mean age of fertility also inched up from 26.5 years in 2011 to 28.4 years in 2018. Detailed NFHS data that would have age-wise fertility trends is not out yet.

Laggard states: Bihar, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Manipur remain the only states with fertility rates above the replacement level and the national average.

Source: Livemint

Underlying Roadblocks: India’s declining fertility is not a consequence of any top-down policy or coercive sanctions, but a sign of increasing prosperity. The laggard states still have to progress on a slew of indicators such as women literacy, marriage age and family planning, which directly or indirectly impact fertility.

Gender Roles: Data shows that even in 2021, one in three married women aged 15-49 does not resort to family planning. The burden of contraception still largely falls on women. As many as 38% of married women rely on female sterilization to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

Source: Livemint

In comparison, male sterilization is a rarity and has significantly declined since 2005-06, from 1% to 0.3%. The use of condoms is low at 9.5%, seeing a modest rise from 5.6% in the last five years.

This suggests that more male health workers have to be deployed as “ambassadors of change to promote family planning uptake among men”.

Read more: With India’s demographic transition, come challenges

Source: This post is based on the article “The story of India’s falling fertility rate, in five charts” published in Livemint on 2nd Dec 2021.

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