What is Total Fertility Rate? Why is the number significant? What challenges does India face in achieving the Replacement Rate of fertility? (200 Words)

Mentors Comments:
1. Define Fertility Rate and give the number for India
2. Briefly highlight its significance in population growth
3. Discuss the challenges facing India – literacy, regional variations, health, etc.,
4. Touch briefly on solutions to address the issue
https://www.livemint.com/opinion/columns/opinion-the-country-s-population-can-be-an-asset-it-is-not-a-liability-1568313646428.html 
Answer:

The total fertility rate (TFR) in simple terms refers to the total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her lifetime if she were subject to the prevailing rate of age-specific fertility in the population. TFR of about 2.1 children per woman is called Replacement-level fertility.

According to the United Nations (UN) report, the number of children born per woman in the country still lies in the range of 2.1-4. This puts India in the intermediate-fertility group of countries in which around 40% of the world population lives. India is expected to add nearly 273 million people between 2019 and 2050.

Following are the significance of population growth-
1. Demographic dividend- The median age of India’s population will be 28.43 years in 2020 compared to 38.4 years in China.
2. Demand- Population growth spurs the demand in the economy, thereby fuelling production and hence, economic growth.
3. The high proportion of young people in the population will mean an increase in our workforce, more so, if a higher proportion of women enter the workforce.
4. It will also mean an increase in savings rates for some time, as young people save while the old do not.
5. This source of economic growth will not be available to many Asian countries for long, as their workforce contracts, so that they would have to rely on productivity increases to sustain growth.
6. The engines of global growth are aging rapidly and many will experience outright population contraction alongside dwindling working-age shares. India can cement economic gains by boosting productivity, taking steps to increase labor force participation.

The high proportion of young people in the population will mean an increase in our workforce, more so, if a higher proportion of women enter the workforce.
It will also mean an increase in savings rates for some time, as young people save while the old do not. This source of economic growth will not be available to many Asian countries for long, as their workforce contracts, so that they would have to rely on productivity increases to sustain growth.

The various social issues which challenge India in achieving the Replacement Rate of fertility are as follows-

 Early Marriage and Universal Marriage System: Even though the marriageable age of a girl is legally 18 years, the concept of early marriage still prevails. Getting married at a young age prolongs the childbearing age. Also, in India, marriage is a sacred obligation and a universal practice, where almost every woman is married at the reproductive age.
 India’s fertility rate is currently at about 2.24, with wide variations across States — it stands at 1.6 in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal and at 3.3 in Bihar and 3.1 in Uttar Pradesh.
 The fertility rate in rural areas is much higher than in urban areas.
 Poverty and Illiteracy: Another factor for the rapid growth of the population is poverty. Impoverished families have this notion that more the number of members in the family, more will be the numbers to earn income. Some feel that more children are needed to look after them in their old age.
 There is a high unmet need for family planning – an estimated 30 million currently married women in the age group 15-49 years and 10 million young women in the age group 15-24 years wish to delay or avoid pregnancy but do not have access to contraceptives for various reasons.
 The Economic Survey of 2018 points out that ‘son meta preference’ – the desire to have a male child – has resulted in 21 million “unwanted girls" in India.
 Such gender preferences are also equally contributing to the population explosion in India along with triggering malpractice of female foeticide.

Way forward
 Social moves like educating girls will empower women to take informed decisions about her body and life, as well as that of the child.
 Curbing under-age marriage and teenage pregnancy will also help in checking the birth rate.
 Much greater attention has to be paid for expanding the basket of contraceptive choices, with a specific focus on spacing methods, to match the needs of a large young population.
 Budgetary allocations and spending on family planning have to be raised, especially to provide birth spacing methods, adequately train health workers, ensure quality of service delivery and invest in behavior change communication.
 The poor, populous northern States must make concerted advances in women’s literacy, health, and participation in the workforce, emulating the achievements of the southern States.
 Progress in poverty reduction, greater equality, better nutrition, universal education, and health care, needs state support and strong civil society institutions.

The government must take a holistic, multidimensional approach to spread awareness by involving medical options such as the importance of family planning to sterilization means to social measures such as improving the number of educated girls

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