India’s birth crisis: Lancet forecast of fertility rate dip to 1.29 by 2050

 

Source: BS

Relevance: GS 2: Social Issues

Prelims: National Family Health Service, Total Fertility Rate (TFR), Mission Parivar Vikas, Compensation scheme for Sterilization Acceptors.

Mains: Explore the economic factors influencing fertility decisions in India. How does inter-generational wealth flow and women’s participation in the workforce affect fertility rates?

Why in News: A recent report from Lancet regarding worldwide fertility rates has predicted a decline in India’s overall fertility rate (TFR).

Total Fertility Rate (TFR)

Overview:

  • TFR serves as a measure of the average number of children a woman is expected to have throughout her reproductive years based on current age-specific fertility rates.
  • It stands as a significant demographic and socio-economic indicator.

Calculation:

  • TFR is derived by summing up age-specific fertility rates across all women, each multiplied by five.
  • Age-specific fertility rates pertain to seven five-year age brackets ranging from 15–19 to 45–49.

Key Findings of the Study

Global Total Fertility Rate (TFR) Trends:

  • By 2050, researchers predict that 155 out of 204 countries (accounting for 76% of the world) will register fertility rates below replacement level.
  • The count of countries and territories below replacement level is anticipated to surge to 198 (97%) by 2100.
  • This indicates a potential population decline in these areas unless mitigated by ethical and efficient immigration practices.Lancet projects further fall in India's fertility rate, raises concern |  India News - Business Standard

Decline in India’s Fertility Rate:

  • India’s TFR witnessed a notable decrease from 6.18 in 1950 to 4.60 in 1980, further dropping to 1.91 in 2021.
  • With a TFR of 1.9, India falls below the critical replacement fertility threshold of 2.1.
  • Projections suggest a further decline to 1.29 by 2050 and 1.04 by 2100.

Livebirths in India:

  • In 1950, India recorded over 16 million livebirths, which escalated to more than 22 million in 2021.
  • However, projections indicate a decline to 13 million livebirths by 2050.

Reasons for Declining Fertility Rates in India

Role of Family Welfare Programme:

  • Post-independence, there was a concerted effort to control population growth through the Family Welfare Programme.
  • Initiatives such as maternal and child health-related cash incentives aimed to encourage families to limit themselves to two children.
  • Over time, this campaign led to a shift in behavior towards smaller family sizes.

Impact of Improved Healthcare and Infant Mortality Reduction:

  • Maternal and child health programs, along with successful immunization drives, significantly reduced infant mortality rates.
  • As child survival became more assured, families increasingly opted for smaller sizes as the norm.

Economic Factors:

  • Economic development has altered the traditional flow of wealth between generations.
  • Parents no longer rely on their children for financial support as they once did, leading to a reduced incentive for larger families.
  • Elderly parents may now depend more on their savings, retirement plans, or government assistance, influencing their decision to have fewer children due to the associated costs.

Rise in Female Literacy and Workforce Participation:

  • Increased female literacy rates and greater participation of women in the workforce have led to heightened career aspirations, financial independence, and a reconsideration of family size.
  • Women are now more inclined to prioritize their careers and financial stability over having multiple children.Consequences of an enduring low fertility | Download Scientific Diagram

Long-term Consequences of Fertility Decline

  • Demographic Shifts: The proportion of elderly individuals in the population is expected to surge, with senior citizens projected to comprise over 20% of India’s population by 2050.
  • Labor Force Challenges: Declining fertility rates may lead to labor shortages and potential imbalances in the workforce.
  • Gender Dynamics: Gender preferences may exacerbate social imbalances, posing challenges for gender equality and societal harmony.Declining Birth Rates No Cause for Alarm - The Elephant

Way forward

  • Emulate the strategies of Scandinavian nations such as Sweden and Denmark, which prioritize gender equity through initiatives like affordable childcare, robust healthcare investments, and extensive male-engagement programs.
  • Encourage a cultural shift where men take on greater responsibility for household and caregiving duties, enabling women to balance career aspirations with motherhood effectively.
  • Implement economic policies aimed at stimulating growth and creating job opportunities to address the challenges posed by declining fertility rates.
  • Introduce social security and pension reforms to provide adequate support for aging populations and mitigate the long-term impacts of demographic shifts.
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