The country’s average TFR rate has fallen below the replacement threshold, indicating that India’s population is declining
In India, National Family Health Survey is published every five years and the National Institute for Population Sciences plays the role of nodal agency. The latest NFHS-5 revealed that for the first time in history, India’s fertility rate today has gone below the replacement levels or the Total Fertility Rate (TFR).
According to WHO definition, to replace the dying population every child bearing woman should give birth to 2.1 children.
If the fertility rate is more than the TFR, then there is a growth of population, and if it is below TFR, then there is a decline. The ideal for the replacement level of homo sapiens is 2.1, which keeps the population stable.
Fertility rate in India is going below the replacement level
As per the NFHS 2019-20 report, the fertility rate in India today is going below the replacement level of 2.1. In other words, the woman in her reproductive phase, from 15-49 years of age, is giving birth to only two children.
In many states like West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the TFR has gone below the replacement level.
Although few states like Bihar (3.4), UP (2.7), Jharkhand (2.6), Rajasthan (2.4), Madhya Pradesh (2.3), Chhattisgarh (2.2) and Assam (2.2) have TFR above the replacement levels, the TFR rate for the country on an average has gone below the replacement level, which means India’s population is declining.
Experts say that the country needs to do away with strict measures to control population and instead maintain the existing trend while also strengthening the prevailing healthcare infrastructure.
Reasons for declining population
As per experts, the trend of opting out is one of the major reasons for the declining population. Statistics show that Indian women give more preference to studies and career goals than marriage and reproduction.
According to the 2011 census, there is an increase of 39% in the number of single women. Late marriages, fewer marriages, involvement of women in the workplaces, high cost of living in metropolitan cities etc. are the reasons behind such a trend.
The availability of better education, economic opportunities, contraceptive measures etc. are making the women change their traditionally defined roles.
Women had to take care of their families as well as manage their responsibilities at workplaces. However, to avoid the dual burden of family and work life, many women are retreating from marriage and motherhood.
Some reports even say that married couples even prefer to remain childless. Future uncertainty because of climate change, COVID-19 pandemic etc. are making the married couples to go childless.
Due to metropolitan, highly complex costly lifestyle, couples are avoiding taking responsibility for raising a child.
For example, starting a family in Hong Kong is way too expensive. Facilities like housing and education are the most expensive in the world and this has a direct bearing on the fertility rate there.