July 24, 2021

The World Stock Markets Tips & Targets, News, Views & Updates

The World Stock Markets Tips & Targets, News, Views & Updates

Not women’s will, but governments’ failure behind large families

(This story originally appeared in on Jul 22, 2021)

If adequate and accessible family planning services were provided to all women who need them, the country might have achieved a fertility rate lower than replacement level as far back as 2005-06.

According to the National Family Health survey (NFHS) report of 2015-16, the total wanted fertility rate or an estimate of what the fertility rate would be if all unwanted births were avoided, was 1.9 in the 2005-06 survey and 1.8 in 2015-16.

This raises the question of whether it makes sense to penalise women or the people for the failure of governments to provide basic health services. In the latest NFHS survey of 2019-20, the wanted fertility rate did not touch 2 in any of the larger states for which data has been released, barring Bihar, where it was 2.3 compared to a total fertility rate of 3. The reports of several states including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab have not been released yet.

India’s total wanted fertility rate declined from 2.6 in 1993 to 1.8 in 2016. The replacement level fertility rate is 2.1 children per woman, a level at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next. India’s fertility rate in 2015-16 was 2.2 and the partial data available for 2019-20 suggests it is likely to have dipped below replacement level. When the total fertility rate of a country falls below 2.1, its population starts shrinking after a few years. This would have started happening in 2005-06 if the government could improve services in health and education.

According to the 2015-16 survey, there wasn’t a single religious community or caste for which the total wanted fertility was above 2 children. Total wanted fertility rate was 2.3 only for the poorest and those who had no schooling. It was also estimated that 13% of married women had an unmet need for family planning and there hasn’t been a significant decline in this unmet demand over a decade.

This was as high as 22% among married women in the 15-24 age group. The unmet need for family planning refers to women of child-bearing age who wished to postpone the next birth (spacing) or stop childbearing but couldn’t. Among larger states, unmet need for family planning was the highest in Bihar (21%) followed by Jharkhand and UP, where it was 18%. Family planning resources aside, if India ensured at least five years of schooling or primary education for its girls, its fertility rate could be well below replacement level.

According to the 2015-16 survey, the total wanted fertility rate for women with no schooling was 2.3, which dropped to 1.9 among those with five years of schooling and 1.5 for women with over 12 years of schooling. Similarly, if India managed to lift the poorest 20% out of poverty, the fertility rate would be about 1.9. The NFHS-4 survey showed that the total wanted fertility rate of the poorest 20% of the population was 2.3 compared to 1.9 for the next wealth quintile and 1.4 for the wealthiest 20%. It is also no coincidence that the states with the highest wanted fertility rate are also the ones with the worst under-five mortality or the probability of dying by age five per 1,000 live births. It is well established that couples tend to have more children when the survival of their children is uncertain.

Bihar, where the total wanted fertility rate was 2.3, had the highest under-five mortality rate of 56.4, which means nearly 6% of children born live die before five years of age. And that’s the average for the state. For the poorest, the rate would be much higher. Similarly in UP, where the total wanted fertility rate in 2015-16 was 2.1, under-five mortality was 78.

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