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Falling Fertility Rate and Impact on India

Published: 28th Mar, 2024

Context

India’s total fertility rate (TFR) is projected to decline to 1.29 children per woman by 2050 and slip further to 1.04 by 2100, according to a recent study by Lancet on global fertility rates.

Key-findings of the Lancet Study

  • The study suggests that India’s TFR, or the average number of children born to a woman, has been seeing a decline over the last century, with the fertility rate falling from 6.18 children per woman in 1950 to a projected 1.29 children per woman by 2050. 
  • The study stated that India has already fallen below the replacement level of fertility, required for a population to exactly replace one generation with another.
  • In 2021, India’s TFR was at 1.91 children per woman, below the necessary replacement fertility level of 2.1. 
  • The decline in TFR is in line with global trends, stating that its estimates forecast a decline in fertility rates all around the globe, over the coming century.

1: Dimension-Reasons behind the fall in the fertility rate

  • Delayed marriages: With the delay in the age of marriage, the average age of first pregnancy has dropped from the mid-20’s to mid to late 30’s.  
  • Women’s workforce participation: An increase in female literacy and women’s workforce participation leads to busy lifestyles in urban areas and high stress jobs. It leads people to not consider having children at all.
  • Other factors: The decline in fertility rates is also influenced by factors such as extreme shifts in the global distribution of live births due to:
    • improved female education
    • increasing usage of modern contraception methods

2: Dimension-Implications for the Economy

  • Imbalance: Such a trend will pose challenges such as an ageing population, labour force shortages, and potential social imbalances due to gender preferences in the country. 
  • Burdened economy: The plummeting fertility rate in developed or high-income countries may result in an ageing population, burdening national health insurance, social security programmes, and healthcare infrastructure.
  • Political instability and security difficulties: While the declining fertility rates might appear as a green signal for the environment, the uneven concentration of live births can lead to tense situations across the globe.

3: Dimension-Required Measures

  • Economic policies that stimulate growth and job creation, alongside social security and pension reforms are essential in adapting to and mitigating the impacts of declining fertility rates.
  • Higher male engagement in household activities: For women to be able to manage careers with motherhood, it would be crucial for men to take greater responsibility for household and care work.

Fact Box: Replacement Level

  • For a population to remain stable, a TFR of 2.1 children per woman is required, known as the replacement level.
  • When the fertility rate falls below the replacement level, populations begin to shrink. In India, the replacement level is 2.1. 
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