Decline of Indian fertility rates is accelerating but some worrying demographics

Just over a year ago the average fertility rate in India was 2.5 (where the replenishment level is 2.1) and over half the country was at levels below 2.1. With corresponding declines in infant mortality the projections were for population to reach a peak between 2040 and 2050 and to decline slowly thereafter. But new data for 2013 from the Registrar General shows that fertility is declining faster than expected. The average is already down to 2.3. By 2020 the country as a whole will have an average fertility rate below the 2.1 needed for maintaining a constant population (the replenishment rate). However, infant mortality rate has declined slower than expected. India’s population will therefore likely peak closer to 2040 than 2050.

The HinduThe 2013 data for the Sample Registration Survey (SRS), conducted by the Registrar General of India, the country’s official source of birth and death data, was released on Monday.

India Fertility 2013 - graphic The Hindu

India Fertility 2013 – graphic The Hindu

The SRS shows that the Total Fertility Rate – the average number of children that will be born to a woman during her lifetime – in eight States has fallen below two children per woman, new official data shows.

Just nine States – all of them in the north and east, except for Gujarat – haven’t yet reached replacements levels of 2.1, below which populations begin to decline. West Bengal now has India’s lowest fertility, with the southern States, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Among backward States, Odisha too has reduced its fertility to 2.1.

“At 2.3, India is now just 0.2 points away from reaching replacement levels. Fertility is declining rapidly, including among the poor and illiterate. At these rates, India will achieve its demographic transition and reach replacement levels as early as 2020 or 2022,” Dr. P. Arokiasamy, a demographer and Professor at the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai, explained to The Hindu.

Some of the demographics are worrying.

  1. The ratio of women to men is low (average 909 women per 1000 men). Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh have women /men ratios of less than 900 per 1000. I suspect that it is these states which have the lowest levels of emancipation of women and tend to have the highest fertility rates as well. It is clearly the level of development in the state – and not least the emancipation of women – which impacts the fertility rate.
  2. The shortage of women in urban areas (Delhi – 887/ 1000), is probably also due to the general shift of young males seeking employment from rural to urban areas. I wonder if this is also one of the contributing causes for the higher incidence of rape and sexual harassment in places like Delhi.
  3. Countrywide, the mortality rates for infants and children upto 5 years old is higher for girls than for boys.
  4. Abortion rates for female foetuses are also higher than for male foetuses.

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