Thursday, June 2, 2016

Birth Rates Fall in India

Big news from the subcontinent:
Latest survey data suggest that Indian fertility has fallen sharply in recent years and is already at the ‘replacement level’ needed to keep the population stable. Urban fertility is now at levels seen in developed countries and in some places among the lowest in the world.

These readings suggest a big change in India’s demographic trajectory. It also adds to the likelihood that world population will peak a lot sooner than is widely believed.

According to recently released Sample Registration System data, the country’s total fertility rate (TFR) stood at 2.3 in 2013. TFR is the average number of children per woman if she lives to the end of her child-bearing years. In developed countries, a TFR of 2.1is required in order to keep the population stable (ignoring migration). In India, this is around 2.3 due to higher infant mortality and a skewed gender ratio. In other words, the country’s TFR is already at the ‘replacement rate’.

The TFR for rural areas stands at 2.5, but that for urban India is down at 1.8 — marginally below the readings for Britain and the US. An important implication of this is that India’s overall TFR will almost certainly fall below replacement as it rapidly urbanises over the next 20 years.

There continue to be wide variations in the fertility rates across the country. Readings for the southern states have been low for some time, but are now dropping sharply in many northern states. Tamil Nadu has a TFR of 1.7 but so do Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar continue to have the country’s highest TFR at 3.1 and 3.5 respectively, but these are also falling steadily.
The population will keep rising for the next twenty years because of the number of young people, and because Indians are living longer. But the end of Asian population growth is in sight.

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