In a first, India’s fertility rate falls below replacement level | What it means

India’s national Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has fallen below 2.0 for the first time, as per the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS). The findings covered 11 states and three union territories that were not included in the first set of data released in December 2020.

The latest set of findings of the NFHS 2019-21 survey released by the Union Health Ministry on Wednesday revealed that the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime has dropped below the replacement level for the first time.

The national Total Fertility Rate was found to be 2.2 in the NFHS 2015-16 survey, down from 2.7 in the NFHS 2005-06 survey. The same has now declined to 2.1 in rural areas and 1.6 in urban areas, as per the latest NFHS survey.

READ: Declining fertility rate may shrink India’s population by 300 million in 80 years

What is Total Fertility Rate (TFR)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes Total Fertility Rate (TFR) as the average number of children born to a woman “at the end of her reproductive period”.

As per the latest NFHS survey, five states in India with TFR higher than 2 are namely, Bihar (3), Meghalaya (2.9), Uttar Pradesh (2.4), Jharkhand (2.3) and Manipur (2.2).

The TFR in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan is equal to the national average of 2.

Findings of the phase-2 of NFHS 2019-21 survey

Haryana, Assam, Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Mizoram were found to have a TFR of 1.9.

As many as six states were found to have a TFR of 1.8, namely Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. At the same time, another six states were found to have a TFR of 1.7 – Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Tripura.

Meanwhile, the Total Fertility Rate was found to be the lowest in West Bengal and Maharashtra at 1.6.

What is ‘Replacement Level’

Replacement level is the level of fertility at which a population replaces itself exactly from one generation to the next.

According to the United Nations (UN), in countries with a Total Fertility Rate lower than 2.1, a generation is not producing enough children to replace itself. Such a situation results in an outright reduction in the population of that country.

READ: India’s population policy: Myths and reality

Key takeways of latest NFHS surveyThe findings of the latest NFHS survey not only bust the population explosion myth but also show that India must “steer away from coercive measures of population control”, as per Poonam Muttreja, executive director of the Population Foundation of India.In addition, the survey also revealed that the use of condoms in India has increased from 5.6 per cent to 9.5 per cent.The occurrence of anaemia among women and children continues to be a cause of concern with more than half of the children and women, including pregnant women, found to be anaemic in states and UTs part of the NFHS’s 2019-20 phase-two survey.Findings from the latest NFHS survey also revealed that institutional births saw a substantial increase from 79 per cent to 89 per cent at the pan-India level.With the exception of Punjab, there has been a substantial increase in the Overall Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) from 54 per cent to 67 per cent.

(with inputs from PTI)

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