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Volume IconIs a drop in India's fertility rate bad news for the economy?

Govt data reveal that India's fertility rate is declining. It is now lower than replacement levels -- implying a population decrease in the years to come. Will it hurt the economy in the long run?

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A country’s population, along with how fast it grows and its composition, has a significant impact on its economic growth. India’s population is among the youngest in the world. So, the country is said to be on the cusp of enjoying a demographic dividend if it plays its cards right.
 
At the same time, another term -- population explosion -- is also brought up in this context. India’s large population has for long been seen as a hindrance, constraining growth and development. So, how will the decline in population affect the economy in the long run? Let’s find out.
 
According to the latest National Family Health Survey, also known as NFHS, released by the Union health ministry, India’ total fertility rate has declined from 2.2 in 2015-16 to 2.0 now. So, India’s population is set to eventually fall. The replacement level -- which is a woman giving birth to 2.1 kids in her lifetime -- is a benchmark. It means that the population will remain stable as total births will be balanced by the total number of deaths in any country. If it is below 2.1, it means that the population is heading for a decline.

According to the survey, there are only five states with a TFR above 2. These are: Bihar with a TFR of 3, Meghalaya at 2.9, Uttar Pradesh at 2.4, Jharkhand at 2.3, and Manipur at 2.2. Among larger states, Jammu & Kashmir has the lowest fertility rate, at 1.4.
 
We also spoke to Professor K Srinath Reddy, President of the Public Health Foundation of India, to understand the impact of a stable population growth on the economy. Professor Reddy says a significant importance must be given to nutrition as the NFHS survey revealed that 67% of children under five and 59% of girls in the age group of 15 to 19 were anaemic.
 
Experts agree that India’s demographic dividend will last for another two decades, and possibly for a third. But we should aim to cash in on it sooner rather than later. And in that context, time is fast running out for India.

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First Published: Nov 26 2021 | 8:15 AM IST

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