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Literacy leaves its mark as fertility rate goes south

SRS is the largest demographic survey in the country mandated to provide annual estimates of fertility as well as mortality indicators.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jul 15, 2019, 07.13 AM IST
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Agencies
Child
The decadal TFR data indicates that the number of people opting to have children has declined gradually.
Indian women are choosing to have fewer children — the total fertility rate (TFR) declined to an all-time low of 2.2 in 2017 after being stable at 2.3 for the four years from 2013 to 2016, according to the Sample Registration System (SRS) compiled by Registrar General of India (RGI) for 2017.

SRS is the largest demographic survey in the country mandated to provide annual estimates of fertility as well as mortality indicators at the state and national level. Among the states, Bihar reported the highest TFR (3.2), about twice that of Kerala (1.7) and Delhi (1.5), which scored the lowest.

The findings indicated that the average fertility rate went down primarily in southern states such as Tamil Nadu (1.6), Andhra Pradesh (1.6), Telangana (1.7), Kerala

(1.7) and Karnataka (1.7) as well as the hill states — Jammu & Kashmir (1.6), Himachal Pradesh (1.6) and Uttarakhand (1.9). Delhi (1.5), West Bengal (1.6) Punjab (1.6) and Odisha (1.9) too remained below the national TFR in 2017.

The fertility rate was calculated using the cumulative value of the age-specific fertility rates at the end of child-bearing age. TFR indicates the average number of children expected to be born per woman during her entire reproductive span (15-49), assuming that age-specific fertility rates remain the same and there is no mortality.

Fertility rates are critical in dictating how much of a demographic advantage India will have. The number of workers entering the workforce will also determine the viability of pension plans as the population ages.

Steeper Decline in Urban Areas
The decadal TFR data indicates that the number of people opting to have children has declined gradually. The national TFR came down from 5.2 to 4.5 in the 1971-1981 period and from 3.6 to 2.2 in 1991-2017.

The decline has been steeper in urban areas than rural ones. “In urban areas, the TFR has come down from 4.1to 1.7 from 1971 to 2017 whereas the corresponding decline in rural areas has been from 5.4 to 2.4 during the same period,” the report reviewed by ET said.

One of the key reasons for the decline in fertility has been education, more precisely that of women. At the national level, 14.7% of the female population is reported illiterate.
TFR

Among literate women, nearly 17.7% have education up to Class X, 12% up to Class XII and 9.8% reported an education level of graduate and above. Bihar, which recorded the highest fertility rate, had the highest percentage of illiterate women (26.8%) while Kerala recorded the lowest (0.7%).

These findings are further corroborated by fertility rates based on educational qualifications. At the national level, literate women recorded a gradual decline of TFR to 2.1 while that for women with no education for 2017 was 2.9.

Based on specific age groups in the reproductive span of 15-49, “fertility declined in the older age groups in rural areas while it increased for the corresponding age groups in urban areas in the last decade,” the findings stated.

Elaborating on age groups, the survey said, “The decline in fertility is slower in the middle age groups 20-34 for both the areas. The minimum decline of 2.6% has been noticed in the age group 30-34 at national level. Fertility, however, declines from age 30 in all the bigger states/UTs, except Jammu & Kashmir where it declines from age 35.”
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