Fertility is falling faster than expected in India, and the country is on track to reach replacement levels of fertility as soon as 2020, new official data shows.
The 2013 data for the Sample Registration Survey (SRS), conducted by the Registrar General of India, the country’s official source of birth and death data, was released on Monday.
The SRS shows that the Total Fertility Rate – the average number of children that will be born to a woman during her lifetime – in eight States has fallen below two children per woman, new official data shows.
Just nine States – all of them in the north and east, except for Gujarat – haven’t yet reached replacements levels of 2.1, below which populations begin to decline. West Bengal now has India’s lowest fertility, with the southern States, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Among backward States, Odisha too has reduced its fertility to 2.1.
“At 2.3, India is now just 0.2 points away from reaching replacement levels. Fertility is declining rapidly, including among the poor and illiterate. At these rates, India will achieve its demographic transition and reach replacement levels as early as 2020 or 2022,” Dr. P. Arokiasamy, a demographer and Professor at the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai, explained to The Hindu .
The news on the other key indicator in the SRS - the infant mortality rate (IMR) - is less positive. India’s IMR has fallen to 40 deaths per 1,000 live births, and 49 deaths of children under the age of 5 for every 1,000 live births, but at these rates is unlikely to meet its Millenium Development Goals for 2015. IMR has fallen faster in rural areas than in urban areas.
Among the metro cities, Chennai has the lowest IMR (16). Among states, Kerala has by far the best IMR at 12 deaths per 1,000 live births; the next best states, Delhi and Maharashtra, have IMRs that are twice that of Kerala.
Another worrying trend that continues is the unnaturally higher mortality rates both for infant girls and for girls under the age of five than for boys, a trend that runs contrary to the global trend.