Thursday, 21 March 2013

On the path to Replacement Level Fertility

The results of the last two censuses, especially the findings of the 2011 Census, clearly indicate that the country has entered the last phase of demographic transition, usually characterized by rapidly declining fertility. 
The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that India will surpass China as the world’s largest country by 2025, assuming that China does not alter its current fertility policy. But India's population will also be more youthful than China's with a large proportion of those in the working age category. India is in the third phase of demographic transition and has fertility rates that have declined significantly from previously high levels. But it is yet to reach the population-stabilizing "replacement level" of 2.1 children per woman. 

Replacement level fertility is the number of children a woman should have to replace herself and her mate for a stable population, and it has been fixed at 2.1 globally. A stable population is that where fertility and mortality are constant. 
As per the National Population Policy, the set target for India to obtain stable population is 2045, for which the replacement fertility level of 2.1 was to be achieved by 2010, which has not happened. The crucial question now is — how long will this phase extend and when will India achieve a stable population? 

The provisional Census 2011 figures show that all four south Indian States — Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu — have already achieved the replacement level fertility of 2.1 children per women required to initiate the process of population stabilization, while the four large north Indian States — Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — have still a long way to go before they achieve the required level.

The achievement of the 2.1 rate in these states is because of several reasons such as high literacy rate, education about family planning, availability of contraceptives, life style improvement and empowerment of women. As per the latest NFHS-3 data, the use of reproductive and child health as well as family planning services is very low in these northern States as compared to the four large southern States. The state government in these four northern states should use the media and also give assurance to the public about these services.

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