Analysing the trends in India’s population growth

The article analyses some trends in India’s population growth as found in the Sample Registration System Statistical Report (2018).


  • There have been some encouraging trends in India’s population in the Sample Registration System (SRS) Statistical Report (2018) and global population projections made by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), US.

 Declining TFR

  • SRS report estimated the Total Fertility Rate (TFR), the number of children a mother would have at the current pattern of fertility during her lifetime, as 2.2 in the year 2018.
  •  It is estimated that replacement TFR of 2.1 would soon be, if not already, reached for India as a whole.
  • As fertility declines, so does the population growth rate.
  • This report estimated the natural annual population growth rate to be 1.38 per cent in 2018.
  • A comparison of 2011 and 2018 SRS statistical reports shows that TFR declined from 2.4 to 2.2 during this period.
  • Fertility declined in all major states.
  • In 2011, 10 states had a fertility rate below the replacement rate. This increased to 14 states.
  • The annual natural population growth rate also declined from 1.47 to 1.38 per cent during this period.

So, when will India’s population stabilise

  • Duet to population momentum effect, a result of more people entering the reproductive age group of 15-49 years due to the past high-level of fertility, population stabilisation will take some time.
  • The UN Population Division has estimated that India’s population would possibly peak at 161 crore around 2061.
  •  Recently, IHME estimated that it will peak at 160 crore in 2048.
  • Some of this momentum effect can be mitigated if young people delay childbearing and space their children.

Factors affecting fertility rates

  • Fertility largely depends upon social setting and programme strength.
  • Programme strength is indicated by the unmet need for contraception, which has several components.
  •  The National Family Health Survey (2015-16) provides us estimates for the unmet need at 12.9 per cent and contraceptive prevalence of 53.5 per cent for India.
  • Female education is a key indicator for social setting, higher the female education level, lower the fertility.
  • As the literacy of women in the reproductive age group is improving rapidly, we can be sanguine about continued fertility reduction.

Declining sex ratio at birth: Cause for concerrn

  •  The SRS reports show that sex ratio at birth in India, measured as the number of females per 1,000 males, declined marginally from 906 in 2011 to 899 in 2018.
  • Biologically normal sex ratio at birth is 950 females to 1,000 males. 
  • The UNFPA State of World Population 2020 estimated the sex ratio at birth in India as 910, lower than all the countries in the world except China.
  • This is a cause for concern for following 2 reasons:
  • 1) This adverse ratio results in a gross imbalance in the number of men and women.
  • 2) Impact on marriage systems as well as other harms to women.
  • Increasing female education and economic prosperity help to improve the ratio.
  • It is hoped that a balanced sex ratio at birth could be realised over time, although this does not seem to be happening during the period 2011-18. 


In conclusion, there is an urgent need to reach young people both for reproductive health education and services as well as to cultivate gender equity norms. This could reduce the effect of population momentum and accelerate progress towards reaching a more normal sex-ratio at birth. India’s population future depends on it.

Back2Basics: Total Fertility Rate and Replacement rate

  • Total fertility rate (TFR) in simple terms refers to total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her life time 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 (UN, Population Division).
  • This value represents the average number of children a woman would need to have to reproduce herself by bearing a daughter who survives to childbearing age.
  • If replacement level fertility is sustained over a sufficiently long period, each generation will exactly replace itself without any need for the country to balance the population by international migration.

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