As Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted “population explosion” and underscored the need for “social awareness” to deal with this concern in his Independence Day address to the nation Thursday, trends indicate that the country has consistently made gradual improvements in curbing its fertility rates.
Currently, however, the national Total Fertility Rate (TFR), which measures the number of children born to a woman at the end of childbearing age, is estimated to be still marginally higher than the replacement rate, which is the average number of children a woman needs to have to keep the population at a constant size.
The latest estimates (for 2017) by the Sample Registration System (SRS) under the Registrar General of India (RGI) has pegged the country’s TFR at 2.2. This is only marginally more than the replacement rate which stands at 2.1.
This latest data also show that seven states — Uttar Pradesh (3.0), Bihar (3.2), Madhya Pradesh (2.7), Rajasthan (2.6), Assam (2.3), Chhattisgarh (2.4) and Jharkhand (2.5) — that account for about 45 per cent of the total population in the 2011 Census recorded a higher TFR than the national average.
Gujarat and Haryana, too, recorded a TFR of 2.2, which is above the replacement rate but is equal to the national average.
While relatively well off states in the south — Kerala (1.7), Tamil Nadu (1.6), Karnataka (1.7), Maharashtra (1.7), Andhra Pradesh (1.6) and Telangana (1.7) — demonstrate fertility rates below the rate required for population replacement, the states of West Bengal (1.6), Jammu and Kashmir (1.6) and Odisha (1.9), too, were estimated to have lower TFRs in 2017.
“I would like to highlight the issue of population explosion in our country from the aegis of the Red Fort today. This rapidly increasing population poses various new challenges for us and our future generations,” Modi said in his Independence Day address, highlighting the issue as he went on to suggest that keeping a small family is akin to patriotism.
“This small section of responsible citizens is self-motivated to keep their family small. Not only do they contribute to the welfare of their family but also to the good of the nation. They express patriotism.”
Modi, in this context, lauded parents who have maintained small families and suggested that they should serve as an inspiration for families who have not paid attention to the issue of “population explosion”.
“The people who have played this huge role need to be honoured, and by setting them as examples, we need to inspire the segment of society who are still not thinking on these lines. We need to worry about population explosion,” said Modi.
The Sample Registration System (SRS) measured regularly reveals that the TFR has not only been improving for the country as a whole but even in states that register a TFR higher than the replacement rate.
The latest report of 2017 underlined that the TFR has declined from 5.2 to 4.5 between 1971 and 1981 and from 3.6 to 2.2 between 1991 and 2017. In fact, the data reveal that trends vary along the rural-urban divide as well as the literacy levels of women.
The SRS reveals that while an “illiterate” woman is likely to give birth to 2.9 children on average, a “literate” woman will produce fewer (2.1) children. Women with education levels of Class 10 and above have been recorded to have a TFR below the replacement rate (2.1).
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Data show that a Class 10-pass woman produces two children on average while a woman who has cleared Class XII will produce 1.8 children. The TFR for a woman with education levels of a graduate or above is 1.4 children. Likewise, urban areas have been usually found to have a lower TFR than rural areas. While the TFR declined from 5.4 to 2.4 from 1971 to 2017 in rural areas, the decline in urban areas slipped below the replacement rate from 4.1 to 1.7 during the same period.
This decline in fertility rates is also reflected in the total population growth recorded in the Census. The decadal population growth in the intervening period between the 2001 Census and the 2011 Census has seen a decline after the 1971 Census.
Incidentally, the 2011 Census recorded the sharpest decline in the percentage decadal population growth during 2001-11 since Independence. The decadal growth during 2001-11 stood at 17.64, a sharp dip of 3.9 percentage points against 21.54 growth recorded in the previous decade (1991-2001).
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