Fertility in India drops below the replacement limit

The Indian population boom is over. The second most populous country on earth, with 1.38 billion people, now has a total fertility rate (TFR) – which is the average number of children a woman could have in her lifetime – of 2 below the replacement threshold of 2.1.

These data come from the fifth national family health survey, published in late November, which was carried out from 2019 to 2021 on a sample of 650,000 households in 707 counties across the country. In the last survey 2015-2016 the index was 2.2 and in 2005-2006 it was 2.7. This downward trend is much more pronounced in urban areas, where the total fertility rate drops to 1.6 compared to 2.1 in rural areas.

These new fertility data do not yet mean stabilization as the Indian population will continue to grow. “India is currently in the third phase of its demographic change, where birth rates are falling but the population continues to grow due to the importance of its youth”, Analysis Poonam Muttreja, Director of the Indian Population Foundation, a leading NGO. The country has 30% of young people aged 10 to 24 who are or will be of childbearing age in a few years.

Contested claims by Hindu nationalists

In any case, these results contradict the allegations of Hindu nationalists who are trying to enforce birth control in several states. Uttar Pradesh, led by a fundamentalist Hindu monk close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, tabled a bill in July that would remove promotions and grants from public employment for people with more than two children. The State of Assam, Led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Modi’s formation also announced discriminatory measures against people with more than two children in June. The Prime Minister himself had mentioned in 2019 on the occasion of Independence Day, a “Demographic Explosion” and urged regional governments to act. The debate has become eminently political.

“National Family Health Survey Shatters the Population Explosion Myth and Kills Those Who Say India Needs Forced Population Control” », the Indian Foundation for the People said in a statement.

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