Volume IconIndia's fertility rate dips below replacement level: What does it mean?

The govt's efforts to tame the population have started paying off. Indian women are giving birth to fewer children now than in the past. Total fertility rate has fallen below the replacement level now

Daily wage migrant labourers gather alongside a road as they wait for work, amidst the coronavirus outbreak, in Ahmedabad

India made history recently. Decades of government efforts to control the population growth are finally showing the much-needed result.

The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) -- which is the average number of children who would be born to any women in her lifetime – has declined from 2.2 in 2015-16 to 2.0 in 2019-21. It was revealed in the fifth round of the National Family Health Survey, or NFHS-5, conducted over two years starting in 2019.

India’s TFR of two is currently below the replacement level of fertility of 2.1 children per woman.

Replacement level fertility represents the level at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next, thus leading to zero population growth if the level sustained over a sufficiently long period

This rate is roughly 2.1 children per woman for most countries, although it may modestly vary with mortality rates. Replacement level fertility will lead to zero population growth only if mortality rates remain constant and migration has no effect.

Meanwhile, below-replacement fertility results eventually in negative population growth and extinction of the population in the long term. Between 1992-93 and 2019-21, India’s TFR declined from 3.4 children to 2.0 children. 

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The TFR ranges from 1.1 children per woman in Sikkim to three children per woman in Bihar. Five states are yet to achieve a replacement-level of fertility of 2.1, according to the NFHS-5.

These states are Bihar (2.98), Meghalaya (2.91), Uttar Pradesh (2.35), Jharkhand (2.26) and Manipur (2.17).

All the communities are witnessing a decline in fertility. The TFR for Hindu women was at 1.94, and for Muslim women it was 2.2. The Christian community has a fertility rate of 1.88, the Sikh community 1.61, the Jain community 1.6 and the Buddhist and neo-Buddhist community 1.39.

The TFR among women in rural areas has declined from 3.7 children in 1992-93 to 2.1 children in 2019-21.
The corresponding decline among women in urban areas was from 2.7 children in 1992-93 to 1.6 children in 2019-21. In all NFHS surveys, irrespective of place of residence, the fertility rate peaks at the age of 20-24, after which it declines steadily.

Another interesting aspect was that the number of children per woman declines with women’s level of schooling. Women with no schooling have an average of 2.8 children, compared with 1.8 children for women with 12 or more years of schooling.

First Published: May 18 2022 | 7:00 AM IST

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