Editorial Analysis – It’s time to discuss depopulation

Syllabus – 

Prelims: Current events of national importance(Fertility rate, World Population prospects, SDGs etc)
Mains GS Paper I & II: Social empowerment, development and management of social sectors/services related to Health.

Source – The Hindu

In News – 

World population reached Eight Billion and the threat of de-population in certain parts of India.

  • By 2023, India is anticipated to overtake China as the world’s most populated nation.
  • India’s population is anticipated to continue to expand over the next 40 years whereas China’s population has begun to drop.
  • However, the threat of depopulation is present in several areas of India, and no plans have been made to address it.

Background – 

  • The population of the world is anticipated to increase until 2086.
  • The United Nations predicts that India’s population will start to fall in 2063. By then, it would have risen to almost 1.7 billion. Alarmist calls for family size restrictions have increased as a result.
  • On the other hand, nations like Japan and South Korea that are experiencing declining fertility rates and are nearing the tipping point of population losses are considering reversing the trend.
  • When talking about depopulation, some important factors are usually ignored – 
    • fair distribution of household duties
    • Access to affordable daycare that enables women to balance work and family
    • lowered restrictions on immigration for adults of working age from nations that have not yet experienced 

Fertility in India – 

  • Fertility in India is falling along expected lines as a direct result of rising incomes and greater female access to health and education. 
  • India’s total fertility rate is now below the replacement rate of fertility.
  • Because of policy intervention, parts of India have not only achieved replacement fertility, but have been below the replacement rate for so long that they are at the cusp of real declines in population.
  • Kerala, which achieved replacement fertility in 1998, and Tamil Nadu, which achieved this in 2000, are examples. 
  • Additionally, many cities have been at the replacement rate or below it for at least ten years, if not more, even in States with relatively high fertility.
  • The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) estimated India’s urban fertility rate in 2019-21 to be 1.6, which places it next to the U.K.
  • It is expected that Tamil Nadu and Kerala will see their first absolute decline in the working-age population in the next four years.
  • It should be mentioned that in 2011, the median age of Tamilians was 10 years higher than that of Biharis. In 2036, when the average Tamilian will be older than 40, they will be more than 12 years apart.
  • The working-age population of the future will skew northwards.
  • Both States (Kerala and Tamil Nadu), according to 2011 data, had negative net migration rates. This means that they sent out more migrants than they received.

Three challenges – 

  • Skewed Sex Ratio – Those with at least one male are less likely to want more children than families with just one daughter, according to the most recent NFHS round.
  • Education – Stark differences between northern and southern States in terms of basic literacy as well as enrollment in higher education, including in technical fields, will mean that workers from the southern States are not automatically replaceable.
  • Sharp anti-muslim tone – The sharp anti-Muslim tone in the conversation has remained even though fertility between Hindus and Muslims is converging.

Conclusion – 

The price that some States are paying in relation to others in terms of the proportion of federal tax receipts or political representation is frequently brought up in discussions about fertility reductions in the southern States. However, there is also the issue of how much their own citizens will have to sacrifice in order to continue economic growth and welfare. The discussion in India has been stagnant because of decades of attention on reducing fertility. The southern States should abandon this antiquated, fact-free discourse and participate in the global discussion on depopulation.

Question for Practice –

Despite Consistent experience of high growth, India still goes with the lowest indicators of human development. Examine the issues that make balanced and inclusive development elusive. (UPSC 2021) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)

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