India's fertility rate falls again from 6.2 to under 2 since 1950, will fall to 1.3 in 2050: Here's why

According to experts, the reasons for population decline in India range from declining fertility rates to social and cultural changes. Photo: Shutterstock/MakeStory Studio

New Delhi: India's fertility rate dropped from nearly 6.2 in 1950 to just under 2 in 2021, and is projected to fall further to 1.29 and 1.04 in 2050 and 2100, respectively, according to a new global research published in The Lancet journal. These numbers were found to be in line with global trends, where the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) was over 4.8 children per woman in 1950 and fell to 2.2 children per woman in 2021. These figures have been projected to fall to 1.8 and 1.6 in 2050 and 2100, respectively.

The study found that there were 12.9 crore live births the world over in 2021 -- an increase from roughly 9.3 crore in 1950, but a decline from the peak of 14.2 crore in 2016. In India, there were more than 1.6 crore and over 2.2 crore live births in 1950 and 2021. The number is projected to fall to 1.3 crore in 2050.

Why is our population declining?
According to experts, the reasons for population decline range from declining fertility rates to social and cultural changes. Better access to education, urbanization, and better healthcare are leading to improved family planning and contraception use across India. At the same time, the rising living costs, expenses for education, increasing number of women in the workforce, urbanisation, government policies like birth control, changing societal attitudes towards the family system, child-rearing, motherhood, parenthood and the like also contribute to population decline. Recent studies have shown that women in Kerala, for instance, aren't too interested in marriage unlike in the past and prioritise independence and career over marriage or children.

A demographically divided world
Even as much of the planet contends with the challenges of low fertility, many low-income countries will still be facing high fertility issues during the 21st century, said the researchers from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2021 Fertility and Forecasting Collaborators. The high fertility in these low-income regions, particularly in some countries and territories in western and eastern sub-Saharan Africa, will result in a demographically divided world, they said.

The majority of children will be born in some of the poorest regions in the world, with low-income countries' share in global live births almost doubling from 18 per cent to 35 per cent from 2021 to 2100, the researchers projected. Further, with the worsening climate change, many of these high-fertility low-income countries are expected to also experience more frequent floods, droughts and extreme heat, all of which threaten food, water and resource security, along with dramatically raising the risk of heat-related illnesses and death, they said.

Implications for India
Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of Population Foundation of India (PFI), a non-profit organisation promoting gender-sensitive population and health policymaking, said the findings have "profound implications" for India and include challenges such as an ageing population, labour force shortages, and potential social imbalances due to gender preferences. "While these challenges are still a few decades away for India, we need to start acting now with a comprehensive approach for the future," Muttreja said in a statement. "Economic policies stimulating growth and job creation, alongside social security and pension reforms, will also be essential in adapting to and mitigating the impacts of declining fertility rates," said Muttreja.  
(With PTI inputs)

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