Making sense of population growth of India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: TFR

Mains level: Paper 1- Declining TFR in India

The article analyses and explains the declining trend in India’s total fertility rate. The aspirational revolution in the parents explains such decline. 

What the projections say

  • A new study was published in The Lancet, and prepared by the Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
  • It argues that while India is destined to be the largest country in the world, its population will peak by mid-century.
  • And as the 21st century closes, its ultimate population will be far smaller than anyone could have anticipated, about 1.09 billion instead of approximately 1.35 billion today.
  • It could even be as low as 724 million, the study projects.
  • Until 2050, the IHME projections are almost identical to widely-used United Nations projections.
  •  It is only in the second half of the century that the two projections diverge with the UN predicting a population of 1.45 billion by 2100, and the IHME, 1.09 billion.

Present trends in India’s fertility rate

  •  In the 1950s, India’s Total fertility rate (TFR) was nearly six children per woman; today it is 2.2.
  •  Between 1992 and 2015, it had fallen by 35% from 3.4 to 2.2.
  • It is even below the replacement rate in 18 States and Union Territories.

What explains the trends

  • One might attribute it to the success of the family planning programme.
  • But family planning has long lost its primacy in the Indian policy discourse.
  • Punitive policies include denial of maternity leave for third and subsequent births, limiting benefits of maternity schemes and ineligibility to contest in local body elections for individuals with large families.
  • However, these policies are mostly ignored in practice.

Aspirational revolution

  •  It seems highly probable that the socioeconomic transformation of India since the 1990s has played an important role.
  • Over the years parents began to rethink their family-building strategies.
  • Smaller families when compared with a bigger family with same income level, invest more money in their children by sending them to private schools and coaching classes.
  • It is not aspirations for self but that for children that seems to drive fertility decline.

Consider the question “Examine the factors responsible for the declining trends in the total fertility rate for India. What are its implications for country?”


Demographic data suggest that the aspirational revolution is already under way. What we need to hasten the fertility decline is to ensure that the health and family welfare system is up to this challenge and provides contraception and sexual and reproductive health services that allow individuals to have only as many children as they want.

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