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The Population Worry

  • IASbaba
  • October 19, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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SOCIETY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 1,2:

  • Population and associated issues, 
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. 

The Population Worry

Context: Recently, there has been discussion in the media on India’s population future prompted by release of the Sample Registration System (SRS) Statistical Report (2018) and global population projections made by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), US.

About Fertility Rates

  • Total fertility rate (TFR)—the average number of children born per woman 
  • Replacement level fertility is the TFR —at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next, without migration. This rate is roughly 2.1 children per woman for most countries, although it may modestly vary with mortality rates

What is Sample Registration System (SRS)?

  • The SRS is a demographic survey for providing reliable annual estimates of infant mortality rate, birth rate, death rate and other fertility and mortality indicators at the national and sub-national levels.
  • Initiated on a pilot basis by the Registrar General of India in a few states in 1964-65, it became fully operational during 1969-70.
  • The field investigation consists of continuous enumeration of births and deaths in selected sample units by resident part-time enumerators, generally anganwadi workers and teachers; and an independent retrospective survey every six months by SRS supervisors. The data obtained by these two independent functionaries are matched.

Key Finding of SRS Report

  • The report estimated the Total Fertility Rate (TFR as 2.2 in the year 2018
  • A comparison of 2011 and 2018 SRS statistical reports shows that TFR declined from 2.4 to 2.2 during this period
  • Fertility is likely to continue to decline and it is estimated that replacement TFR of 2.1 would soon be reached for India as a whole
  • As fertility declines, so does the population growth rate
  •  Fertility declined in all major states. In 2011, 10 states had a fertility rate below the replacement rate. This increased to 14 states in 2018.
  • The six states with higher than national fertility rate (and their TFR) in 2018 are Bihar (3.2), Uttar Pradesh (2.9) Madhya Pradesh (2.7), Rajasthan (2.5), Jharkhand (2.5) and Chhattisgarh (2.4)

Issue of sex ratio at birth

  • The SRS reports show that sex ratio at birth in India, measured as the number of females per 1,000 males, declined marginally from 906 in 2011 to 899 in 2018. 
  • There is considerable son preference in all states, except possibly in Kerala and Chhattisgarh. 
  • This is a cause for concern because this adverse ratio results in a gross imbalance in the number of men and women and its inevitable impact on marriage systems as well as other harms to women.

Consequences of TFR reaching replacement level

  • Many people believe that the population would stabilise or begin to reduce in a few years once replacement fertility is reached. 
  • This is not so because of the population momentum effect, a result of more people entering the reproductive age group of 15-49 years due to the past high-level of fertility. 
  • For instance, the replacement fertility level was reached in Kerala around 1990, but its annual population growth rate was 0.7 per cent in 2018, nearly 30 years later. 
  • The UN Population Division has estimated that India’s population would possibly peak at 161 crore around 2061 at the medium-fertility variant.
  • Some of this momentum effect can be mitigated if young people delay childbearing and space their children.

Fertility and Social setting

Fertility largely depends upon social setting and programme strength. 

  1. Female education is a key indicator for social setting. 
  • Broadly, higher the female education level, lower the fertility. 
  • For instance, illiterate women in the reproductive age group of 15-49 years have higher fertility than literate women in almost all states.
  • The percentage of illiterate women in the reproductive age group declined from 31.5 in 2011 to 13.0 per cent in 2018 as the cohort of older women with high illiteracy exited and younger women with a high proportion of them literate entered this age group.
  1. Programme strength is indicated by the unmet need for contraception, which has several components.
  • The National Family Health Survey (2015-16) provides us estimates for the unmet need at 12.9 per cent and contraceptive prevalence of 53.5 per cent for India. Together, this puts the total demand for contraception at 66.4 per cent.
  • Bihar, with the highest fertility rate, also has the highest unmet need at 21.1 per cent and the lowest contraceptive prevalence rate of 24.1 per cent among all the major states
  • Although female education levels are improving in Bihar, fertility for women with any education level is higher in 2018 compared to 2011. Likewise, fertility among women with Class 10 or higher education in UP is greater in 2018 compared to 2011. 
  • Programme’s ability to reach younger people and provide them with good quality reproductive health education and services needs to be urgently strengthened in these states (Bihar & UP)

Way Ahead

  • Increasing female education and economic prosperity help to improve the sex ratio.
  • In view of the complexity of son preference resulting in gender-biased sex selection, government actions need to be supplemented by improving women’s status in the society.
  • There is an urgent need to reach young people both for reproductive health education and services as well as to cultivate gender equity norms

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