Bhutan may have become first country in the region to be headed for a reduction in population.
The Bhutan Living Standards Survey Report-2017 has revealed that the country has achieved a total fertility rate (TFR) of 1.9 — the last version of the report, released in 2012, showed a population stabilisation TFR of 2.1.
TFR is defined as the total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her lifetime at the prevailing rate of age-specific fertility in the population.
As per the National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16 data), India’s TFR is 2.2 (down from 2.7 in 2005-06) but there are wide variations between states. While in UP it is 2.7, the figure is 1.6 in Kerala.
Population stabilisation is said to be achieved at a TFR of 2.1 because at that fertility rate a population just replaces itself. The World Health Organization (WHO) says this value represents the average number of children a woman would need to have to reproduce herself by bearing a daughter who survives to childbearing age. This means any number lower than that would mean a population is actually on its way to a reduction.
High TFR and limited resources have been a problem for many countries in the region but Bhutan, which had introduced the world to Gross National Happiness Index, has clearly managed to buck that trend.
The 2017 BLSS report says: “The TFR of Bhutan in 2017 was estimated at 1.9 children per women based on the number of births in the past 12 months prior to the survey period. This implies that, on average, a woman bears 1.9 children during her reproductive age, which is lower than replacement level of 2.1. The TFR was almost equal in both urban and rural areas…”
Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director for southeast Asia, and newly appointed DDG (Programmes) Dr Soumya Swaminathan were not available for a comment.
In an assessment of TFR in what it calls SEAR (South East Asia Region) countries, WHO says: “TFR in two decades (from 1985-1990 to 2005-2010) has declined in all SEAR countries except Timor-Leste (or East Timor) where it has increased. Out of seven countries that had TFR during 1985-1990 higher than the world average, three (Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh) had over 50% decline by 2005-2010, two (Nepal and Myanmar) between 40% and 50%, one (India) 35%, and the remaining one (Timor-Leste) minus 25% (increase instead of decrease).”
The SEAR countries are Bangladesh, Bhutan, North Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor Leste. Besides Korea and Thailand, the two others below world average are Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
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