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How lower fertility rate hampers demographic dividend in number of ways


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : human population

fertility rateContext

  • Though the Global population, in terms of numbers, has been steadily increasing the average global fertility rate has been consistently declining over the past 70 years.

What Reports say?

  • Reports suggest that the global population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030.
  • According to the World Population Prospects 2022, Average number of children per woman in the reproductive age group has declined by 50%, from an average of five children per woman in 1951 to4 children in 2020.

What is Fertility?

  • Fertility is the quality or state of being fertile.
  • Fertility is the ability to reproduce through normal sexual interaction. In other words it is the natural capacity to conceive a biological child.
  • Fertilitychanges with age. Both males and females become fertile in their teens following puberty.

fertility rate What is fertility rate?

  • The number of live births in women over a specific length of time.
  • Total fertility rate is the average number of children born to a woman during her lifetime.

Recent findings

The newly released World Population Prospectus notes that the global fertility rate fell from three in 1990 to 2.3 in 2021.

Overview of fertility dynamics

  • Reason: Speeding up the social phenomenon of demographic transition.
  • Poorer countries: speeding up the Transition a lot faster than the richer ones.
  • Britain: Took 130 years to transition from a fertility rate of five per woman in 1800 to two in 1930, whereas
  • South Korea: Took 20 years from 1965 to 1985 to achieve the same. South Korea reporting the lowest fertility rate, 1.05 children per woman.
  • Most advanced economies: Have their fertility rate below the replacement rate of 2.1.
  • Sub-Saharan African countries: Expected to contribute more than half the population growth after 2050 and grow through 2100. For example, Niger a sub Saharan country with highest fertility rate in the world, estimated to be 91 children per woman.
  • What is Demographic transition: is a long-term trend of declining birth and death rate. It is shift from high birth rates to low birth rates in societies with minimal technology, education (especially of women) and economic development and from high death rates to Low death rates in societies with advanced economies and development.

fertility rate
Where India Stands

  • According to National Family Health Survey (NFHS), fertility rate falling below the replacement level for the first time to 2.0 in 2021.dropped from 2.2 to 2.0.
  • only five States have a fertility rate above the replacement rate: Bihar (3), Meghalaya (2.9), Uttar Pradesh (2.4), Jharkhand (2.3), and Manipur (2.2)
  • At the time of Independence, India’s fertility rate was six per woman, and it had taken 25 years to reach five, with the government launching the first ever family planning program in the world in 1952.
  • India’s fertility further declined to four in the 1990s when Kerala became the first State in India to have a fertility rate below replacement l
  • Increased use of contraception, more years of average schooling, better health care, and an increase in the mean marriage age of women are of the reasons behind the steady dip in fertility rate.

Lower fertility rate as cause and consequences on the economy

Positive impact:

  • Lower fertility leads to rise in women’s education.
  • Window of time where the ration of working-age population is higher than that of the dependent age groups.
  • This high proportion of people in the workforce boosts income and investment, and higher level of saving.
  • Lower pressure on land, water and other resources and would also contribute to achieving environmental goals.
  • Advanced health care and better nutrition, results in increased life expectancy and productivity of citizens.


Negative impact:

  • Lower fertility impacts women’s education positively, which in turn lowers the fertility of the next generations.
  • While the income rises with better health care and better infrastructure development, Fertility drops.
  • A fall in fertility rate beyond replacement level would have a negative effect on the proportion of the working population, which in turn will affect output in an economy.
  • After the window of demographic dividend, the huge working age population moves to old age, supported by fewer workers.
  • Japan was the first country to experience the implications of falling fertility rates. Country is now facing fiscal challenges to meet rising social security costs.

Experiments to deal with fertility decline

Countries across the globe are experimenting with policies to boost fertility.

  • Germany: found success in boosting births through liberal labour laws, allowing more parental leave and benefits.
  • Denmark: offering state-funded IVF for women below 40 years
  • Hungary: Recently nationalized IVF clinics.
  • Poland: Gives out monthly cash payments to parents having more than two children
  • Russia: Makes one-time payment to parents when their second child is born. Reinstituted the Soviet-era ‘Mother Heroine’ title, who bore and raised more than 10 children amounting to almost a one-time payment of 13 lakh.

Way ahead

  • Need of the hour is to ensure liberal labor reforms, encourage higher female labor force participation, higher focus on nutrition and health.
  • Although India’s working age population will continue to grow for many more decades, it would need to keep an eye on fertility dips.

Mains Question

What are Implications of lower fertility rate on the economy? What steps could be taken to deal with fertility decline? Discuss.

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