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The real population worry

The real population worry

Context: India’s population future prompted by release of the Sample Registration System (SRS) Statistical Report (2018) and global population projections made by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation(IHME),US.


  1. GS Paper 1: Poverty, Population; Development and associated issues

Mains questions:

  1. Critically examine whether growing population is the cause of poverty OR poverty is the main cause of population increase in India. 15 marks

Status of India’s population trends:

Fertility Rate UPSC Legacy IAS
  • The total fertility rate (TFR) in simple terms refers to the total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her lifetime 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.
  • According to the United Nations (UN) report, the number of children born per woman in the country still lies in the range of 2.1-4. This puts India in the intermediate-fertility group of countries in which around 40% of the world population lives. India is expected to add nearly 273 million people between 2019 and 2050.

Advantage related to population growth:

  • Demographic dividend:  Demographic dividend occurs when the proportion of working people in the total population is high because this indicates that more people have the potential to be productive and contribute to growth of the economy. India has demographic dividend for next four decades and if India provides quality health, education, skills and employment opportunities to people then country can come out from middle income trap.
  • Demand creation: Population growth spurs the demand in the economy, thereby fuelling production and hence, economic growth.
  • The high proportion of young people in the population will mean an increase in our workforce, more so, if a higher proportion of women enter the workforce.
  • The engines of global growth are aging rapidly and many will experience outright population contraction alongside dwindling working-age shares. India can cement economic gains by boosting productivity, taking steps to increase labour force participation.

Challenges related to India population growth:

  • In the Population Census of 2011 it was revealed that the population ratio in India 2011 is 940 females per 1000 of males. It is biased toward males which shows patriarchal attitude of society toward female.
  • Early Marriage and Universal Marriage System: Even though the marriageable age of a girl is legally 18 years, the concept of early marriage still prevails. Getting married at a young age prolongs the childbearing age. Also, in India, marriage is a sacred obligation and a universal practice, where almost every woman is married at the reproductive age.
  • India’s fertility rate is currently at about 2.24, with wide variations across States — it stands at 1.6 in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal and at 3.3 in Bihar and 3.1 in Uttar Pradesh.
  • Poverty and Illiteracy: Another factor for the rapid growth of the population is poverty. Impoverished families have this notion that more the number of members in the family, more will be the numbers to earn income. Some feel that more children are needed to look after them in their old age.
  • The Economic Survey of 2018 points out that ‘son meta preference’ – the desire to have a male child – has resulted in 21 million “unwanted girls" in India.

Measures to address these issues:

  • Women education: it is a important tool to address the issues related to biased sex ratio and empowering to women.
  • Curbing under-age marriage and teenage pregnancy will also help in checking the birth rate.
  • Budgetary allocations and spending on family planning have to be raised, especially to provide birth spacing methods, adequately train health workers, ensure quality of service delivery and invest in behavior change communication.
  • Progress in poverty reduction, greater equality, better nutrition, universal education, and health care, needs state support and strong civil society institutions.

 Way forward: 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.

June 2024