India’s total fertility rate fell below replacement level for the first time, according to data released by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS).
The rate fell to two in the latest survey, below the level at which a generation produces enough children to replace itself.
With the United Nations setting the replacement fertility rate at 2.1, India’s situation indicates that the country’s population is now in decline, with deaths exceeding births.
Of India’s 28 states and the eight Union Territories, only five states have a fertility rate greater than two, raising serious concerns about the future of the population.
The decline in the fertility rate in India could be linked to the significant increase in contraceptive use that was identified in the same survey. Across India, the use of modern contraceptive methods increased from 54% in 2015-16 to 67% in 2019-21.
Despite concerns over India’s population levels, newborn care has improved in the country, with childhood immunization campaigns increasing from 62% to 76% in some areas, and even as high as 90 % in other. Likewise, family planning services have improved in India, with unmet need dropping from 13% to just 9% nationwide.
India is currently the second most populous country in the world, with over 1.34 billion citizens, just behind China’s 1.39 billion people.
“The country is aiming for an ISF of 2.1. A drop to 2 means that we have reached our goal of stabilizing the population. This means that we may still become the most populous country in the world – that was predicted somewhere between 2024 and 2028 – but that will now be delayed. This essentially means that we don’t have to worry that a very large population is a challenge for our development ”, Reddy told the Indian Express.
The NFHS is a national study across India that explores a number of changing factors, including fertility, infant and child mortality, family planning, reproductive health and more. The data is provided to India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to provide the government with information on issues of family health and well-being.
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