On November 24, the Union Health Ministry released the combined results from phases 1 and 2 of the National Family Health Survey for 2019-21. It shows that India's population may shrink since its total fertility rate (TFR) has dropped below the replacement threshold for the first time, to 2. Among the larger states, only three have a TFR over the replacement level: Bihar (3.0), Uttar Pradesh (2.4), and Jharkhand (2.3). According to NFHS-3, India's TFR fell from 2.7 in 2005-06 to 2.2 in 2015-16. The National Family Health Survey gets conducted throughout the country. This poll's fifth edition is the latest in the series.
Between NFHS-3 and NFHS-5, some of India's most populated states, such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar, had significant declines in TFR, causing India's total fertility rate to fall below replacement.
The first stage of NFHS-5 took place from June 17, 2019, to January 30, 2020, while the second stage took place from January 2, 2020, to April 30, 2021. The first phase targeted 22 states and territories, while the second phase targeted 14 states and territories. Except for Bihar, all states have urban TFRs that are lower than the replacement threshold.
With a fertility rate of 1.4, J&K has the lowest fertility rate among the large states. It's also the state where, between the last NFHS survey in 2015-16 and the most recent one, the fertility rate declined by 0.6 percent. Kerala and Punjab had the lowest fertility rates in NFHS-4, with 1.6 and 1.7, respectively.
While the fertility rate in Punjab stayed steady in the 2019-21 census, Kerala and Tamil Nadu were the only states in India where the fertility rate climbed, albeit little to 1.8. Sikkim has the lowest fertility rate in the country, with a rate of 1.1.
According to the report, institutional births (births that do not take place at home) have climbed to 89 percent at the pan-India level, up from 79 percent previously. Puducherry and Tamil Nadu have universal coverage of institutional delivery.
What does the Total Fertility Rate mean?
It is the average number of children a woman has over her lifetime. The replacement fertility level is often set at 2.1 because it is the average number of children per woman required to sustain a country's population by maintaining a balance between the number of births and deaths.
According to the United Nations Population Division, nations with replacement fertility below 2.1 children per woman imply that a generation is not generating enough children to replace itself, eventually leading to population decrease.
What are the future apprehensions?
Dr. K S James, head of the International Institute for Population Sciences, an authorized nodal agency for the fifth National Family Health Survey, told The Indian Express that a TFR of 2 is a "certain indicator" of long-term population stability in the country.
The country's economy is driven by one of the highest numbers of young people in the world. Experts have cautioned that the opportunity for this dividend may expire by 2035 when India's senior population would outnumber its youngsters. Again, until more individuals are competent and able to find work, this dividend will go unutilized.
Cover Image: Canva
Image (2) Credits: Times of India
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