Indian fertility rate declines

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Fri Jan 5 18:22:15 MST 2001

20 December 2000

Survey finds Indian fertility rate declining
MUMBAI: In what would sound music to family planning officials in a year
when the population crossed the one billion mark in May, the latest national
family health survey says fertility rate among Indians is declining.
The National Family Health Survey 1998-99 (NFHS-2) has clearly shown that
fertility in Indian population continues to decline mainly due to female
sterilisation which accounts for 71 per cent of contraceptive prevalence in
the country.
If women were to have only the children they wanted, the fertility would
decline further to the replacement level of about 2.1 children per woman. In
most states, at current fertility rates, women will have at least half a
child more than they consider ideal and in a few states the excess fertility
will be more than one child, the survey notes.
At this rate, checking the growth of population would be a long haul.
However, fertility rate could decline further if male sterilisation
increases from the current male contraception amounting to only 4 per cent.
NFHS-2 has shown Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of 2.9 births per woman and
Crude Birth Rate (CBR) of 25 births per 1,000 population. This is in
contrast to 3.4 births per woman and 29 births per 1,000 in the NFHS-1 for
the year 1992-93.
The survey also showed that the fertility is about half a child lower per
woman than it was six and a half years ago.
The total fertility rate is the average number of children a woman would
bear if she experienced current age-specific fertility rates during her
reproductive years.
The survey said the TFR is 3.1 in rural areas and 2.3 in urban areas. Simply
put, a woman in rural areas will on an average have almost one child more
than her urban counterpart.
The childbearing is concentrated between age 20 and 29 years- an average
group that contributes 62 per cent of total fertility. Nonetheless, current
fertility continues to be characterised by a considerable amount of very
early childbearing; the age group 15-19 contributes 19 per cent of total
The survey also showed a close relation between education and the fertility
rate: "fertility declines sharply with women's education and the TFR for
women who have completed at least high school is 2.0 compared to a TFR of
3.5 for those who are unlettered.
Muslim women have a TFR of 3.6, followed by 2.8 for Hindus, which is higher
than for women of all other religions, the survey points out.
NFHS-2 has also explored a number of new areas including women's nutrition,
anaemia, salt iodisation, women's autonomy and domestic violence.
Unfortunately, "despite improvements in the coverage of individual
components of reproductive health services since NFHS-1, few pregnant women
receive the entire complement of recommended services," the survey noted.
Malnutrition among women and children continues to be a serious problem:
more than one-third of women aged 15 to 49 are undernourished and almost
half the children under three years are underweight or stunted.
Although the extent of undernutrition varies greatly depending upon the
mother's/woman's level of education and by the household standard of living,
it is substantial in almost every population subgroup and in all states.
Mothers of only 20 per cent of newborn children receive all of the different
types of antenatal care. Less than half of all deliveries are attended by a
health professional and only one-third of births take place in a medical
There is also considerable variation in the demographic and health status of
the populations in the different states of the country showing regional and
socio-economic disparities, the survey said
Some states like Kerala, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, were already
fairly advanced even at the time of NFHS-1 and others such as Andhra
Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra and Punjab, are making good progress on most
Bihar, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh continue to lag far behind, even
though there have been some improvements in all of these states since
Finally the NFHS-2 underscores the need to formulate and implement effective
and innovative programmes to bring about society-wide changes in the
attitudes of those men and women that contribute to the low status of women
and negatively affect the achievement of demographic, health and nutrition
goals. (PTI)
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