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Home » UNDERSTANDING THE DECLINING TFR

UNDERSTANDING THE DECLINING TFR

GS 1, MAINS: Population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

  • 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.
  • 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.

TOTAL FERTILITY RATE (TFR):

  • Total fertility rate (TFR) in simple terms refers to total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her life time if she were subject to the prevailing rate of age-specific fertility in the population.
  • TFR of about 2.1 children per woman is called Replacement-level fertility (UN, Population Division). 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.
  • If replacement level fertility is sustained over a sufficiently long period, each generation will exactly replace itself without any need for the country to balance the population by international migration.

RISE IN AGE OF MARRIAGE AND USE OF CONTRACEPTIVES:

  • The increased acceptance of contraceptives is just one of the factors for the decline of TFR. Data from various NFHS rounds does not show a significant increase in contraceptive practices by married women. The percentage of women using modern contraceptive methods too has not increased much.
  • The main factor which led to this significant decline is the rise in the age of marriage. The country has this demographic advantage primarily due to an increase in the age at the first child birth.

THE ASPECT OF DEMOGRAPHIC DIVIDEND:

  • 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.
  • The scenario of high income growth in India is critically dependent on the increase in the work participation rate and skill development.
  • In order to achieve the predicted growth rate, an increase in the percentage of women participating in the workforce is a must.
  • Despite the declining trend in the percentage of working women, the trend of sharp decline in TFR and rise in age of marriage suggest that this is feasible. A sharp rise in migration of women for employment reasons further corroborates this point.

PERFORMANCE ACROSS COMMUNITIES:

 

  • The high level of poverty and illiteracy among the Muslim community explains its larger “desired number of children”, than other communities. The situation, however, is changing dramatically.
  • In 2005-6, the TFR for Muslims was 3.4 which fell to 2.6 in 2015-16. For the Hindus, TFR declined from 2.6 in 2005-06 to 2.1 in 2015-16. The fall for Christians and Sikhs was just 0.3 percentage points. This is due to improvement in education status and benefits of economic development and modernity reaching the marginalised communities.
  • Clearly, the acceptance of non-terminal and spacing methods of family planning has gone up among Muslim women, although terminal methods such as sterilisation are not very popular.
  • Primary health and education has played an important role in bringing down their TFR. The decline, as a result of spread of primary education, is universal but the impact is higher for Muslim women, as revealed through NFHS data.
  • The lower rate of school attendance and less years spent in schools by Muslims is due to poverty, as young boys enter the labour market very early. Girls drop-out of schools due to traditional and cultural factors, besides the need to take care of young siblings. There are pointers towards exclusionary socio-economic trends.
  • The labour market scenario is changing fast with modern ideas seeping into the communities, bringing about attitudinal changes. More Muslim girls/women are entering schools and colleges as well as the labour market. The fact that educated Muslim women report very high unemployment rate is an evidence that the societal norms have been relaxed, permitting many more of them to seek jobs than the capacity of the labour market to absorb.

CONCLUSION AND WAY FORWARD:

  • Policy-making in India has in recent decades been generally neutral to data and research.
  • However, in matters of demography, particularly while prescribing strong punitive measures for having large families, decisions must be taken based on rigorous analysis of the data to avoid a China type crisis.
  • There has been talk of measures to control population, independent of caste and community considerations. However, most of the target districts recording TFR above 3.5 have a large Muslim population.
  • It would be important to promote health and education in these districts, focusing on women, to bring down population growth effectively and increase work participation, needed for realisation of the demographic dividend.

PREVIOUS YEARS UPSC MAINS QUESTIONS:

  • ‘Despite implementation of various programmes for eradication of poverty by the government in India, poverty is still existing.’ Explain by giving reasons.  (2018)
  • Discuss whether formation of new states in recent times is beneficial or not for the economy of India. (2018)    
  • Mention core strategies for the transformation of aspirational districts in India and explain the nature of convergence, collaboration and competition for its success. (2018)
  • “An essential condition to eradicate poverty is to liberate the poor from deprivation.” Substantiate this statement with suitable examples. (2016)
  • Critically examine whether growing population is the cause of poverty OR poverty is the main cause of population increase in India.              (2015)
  • Discuss the changes in the trends of labour migration within and outside India in the last four decades. (2014)   
  • The life cycle of a joint family depends on economic factors rather than social values. Discuss. (2014)