For the demographic dividend -Amitabh Kundu

-The Indian Express

Focusing on health, education of women will bring down population, increase work participation

The World Population Prospects 2019 has reported that India’s total fertility rate (TFR) has declined from 5.9 in early Sixties to 2.4 to 2010-15. TFR is defined as the total number of children to be born to women in her lifetime by the current age specific fertility rates. By 2025-30, it will fall to 2.1, sliding further to 1.9 during 2045-50. As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), India’s TFR declined from 2.7 in 2005-6 to 2.2 in 2015-16. When the TFR touches 2.1, which is called replacement fertility level, we can say that the population is getting stabilised, subject to the momentum factor. India’s population was predicted to peak at 1.7 billion in 2060, declining to 1.5 billion by 2100. The faster decline in TFR, as reported by NFHS, suggests that these can happen much earlier than predicted. Thus, there seems to be no reason for panic in the context of the demographic trends.

The increased acceptance of contraceptives is just one of the factors for the decline of TFR. Data from various NFHS rounds do not show a significant increase in contraceptive practices by married women. The percentage of women using modern contraceptive methods too has not increased much. This was the case between 2005-6 and 2015-16 as well — the period recorded a high decline in TFR. The main factor which led to this significant decline is the rise in the age of marriage. The NFHS 2015-16 records that among married women in 20-24 age group, persons who were either pregnant or had a baby at or before the age of 18, declined from 48 per cent in 2005-06 to 21 per cent in 2015-16. The country has this demographic advantage primarily due to an increase in the age at the first child birth. No increase being reported in contraceptive use is understandably due partly to the increase in the age of marriage, as younger couples are more likely to opt for these methods than older ones.

The decline in TFR would lead to reduction in the dependency rate. A reduction in the share of children and an increase in the adult population are important for achieving a high rate of economic growth since it will lead to an increase in the percentage of the working population. India is expected to grow at least 6.5-7.5 per cent per annum in the coming three decades, as per the predictions of the Asian Development Bank. This record growth can be achieved largely due to a demographic dividend and other structural factors, the present economic crisis notwithstanding.

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The Indian Express, 19 September, 2019, https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/total-fertility-rate-population-explosion-6007821/

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