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India’s Birth Crisis

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March 26, 2024

Why in news?

Recent lancet study reveals that by 2050, 1 in 5 Indians will be a senior citizen while there will be fewer younger people to take care of them.

TFR

What are the key highlights of the lancet study?

  • Data- The report is based on the Global Burden of Diseases (GBD), Injuries and Risk Factors Study 2021.
  • Decline in TFR- India’s TFR has fallen to 1.29 well below the replacement rate of 2.1.
  • Aging factor- By 2050, it’s predicted that 1 in 5 Indians will be senior citizens with comparatively smaller young population to support them.
  • Global trends- TFR is globally more than halved from 1950 to 2021, declining from 4.84 to 2.23.
  • Global annual live births peaked in 2016 at 142 million, then decreased to 129 million by 2021.
  • Researchers estimate that by 2050, 155 of 204 countries (76% of the world) will be below the replacement level of fertility.
  • China- It is already dealing with the demographic disadvantage of an ageing population, India too is heading in that direction.

Both India and China account for more than a third of world’s population, the ageing population will increase the dependency ratio.

Why there is decline in India’s TFR?

  • Effective policies- Historical efforts to control population growth, including family planning programs and incentives for limiting family size.
  • Enhanced health- Improved maternal and child health, leading to decreased infant mortality and increased confidence in child survival.
  • Economic changes- The society is witnessing the reversed Inter-generational flow of wealth, children are now seen as a significant financial burden rather than an economic asset.
  • Rising female literacy- Education empowers women, providing them with greater knowledge about family planning and reproductive health.
  • Women participation in workforce- Career consciousness, financial returns and economic independence have meant that women are reconsidering their options of having a second child.

Steps taken by India to combat population

  • National Family Planning Program- It was started in 1952 as part of the First Five-Year Plan, and became the first country in the world to have a state-sponsored population programme.
  • National Family Planning Indemnity Scheme (NFPIS)- The clients are insured in the eventualities of death, complication and failure following sterilization.
  • National Population Policy, 2000- It was launched to address the unmet needs for contraception, healthcare infrastructure, and health personnel, and providing integrated service delivery for basic reproductive and child healthcare.
  • Mission Parivar Vikas- It was launched in 2016 that substantially increase access to contraceptives and family planning services in 146 high-fertility districts with a TFR of above 3.
  • Family Planning Logistic Management and Information System (FP-LMIS): A dedicated software to ensure smooth forecasting, procurement and distribution of family planning commodities across all the levels of health facilities.
  • 360 degree media campaign- Launched a comprehensive media campaign including TV commercials, radio shows, and a dedicated website in 2017.
  • Awareness generation- Observance of World Population Day (July 11), Vasectomy Fortnight, and promotional activities in high fertility districts.

What are the long term consequences of declining TFR?

  • Increase in aged population- By 2050, over 20% of India’s population will be senior citizens, it poses challenges related to care, support, and health care.
  • Financial burden- Healthcare for the elderly lead to increased healthcare costs and pressure on public health budgets.
  • Shrinking workforce- A smaller working age population could lead to labour shortages and affect economic growth.
  • Lack of skilled employees- Industries that heavily rely on younger workers, such as healthcare, manufacturing, and technology, may face challenges in finding skilled employees, potentially leading to inefficiencies and decreased competitiveness.
  • Wage inflation- Labor shortages can also result in increased competition for talent, leading to wage inflation and potential economic instability.
  • Gender imbalance- Son meta preference will impact demographic structure resulting in unequal access to education, employment opportunities, and resources for women.

What lies ahead?

  • Proactive measures such as affordable childcare and health care investments can help mitigate the negative impacts of demographic changes and ensure sustainable development.
  • Gender equity is essential men can support women’s participation in the workforce by sharing the burden of unpaid care work which would contribute to more balanced family dynamics.
  • The need of the hour is economic policies that prioritize growth, job creation, and social security reforms are vital for adapting to demographic changes and mitigating their impacts.
  • India can adapt policies and strategies of the successful models from other countries which suit India’s specific contexts and needs.

Global experimental policies to boost fertility

  • Germany- Boosts births through liberal labour laws, allowing more parental leave and benefits.
  • Denmark- Offers state-funded IVF for women below 40 years.
  • Hungary- Nationalised IVF clinics.
  • Poland- Gives out monthly cash payments to parents having more than two children.
  • Russia- It makes a one-time payment to parents when their second child is born.
  • Russia reinstituted the Soviet-era ‘Mother Heroine’ title, who bore and raised more than 10 children amounting to Rs. 13 lakh.

 

References

  1. Indian Express- Lancet forecast fertility rate dip
  2. The Print- India’s fertility rate plunged in last 70 years
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