Progress in health and education can help in population stabilisation

Progress in health and education can help in population stabilisation

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published Published on Jul 22, 2022   modified Modified on Aug 5, 2022

With the release of a UNDESA report on the World Population Day this year i.e., July 11, once again the debate on who's responsible for the population growth in India has resurfaced. Titled World Population Prospects 2022, the report states that the global population is expected to touch 8 billion on November 15, 2022, and India is projected to exceed China as the world’s most populous country in 2023. 

As soon as the report got media's attention, what followed was a one-sided slandering of Muslims for the country’s population problem. The rise in the share of Muslims in the entire population of India, causing "population imbalance", was criticised by the leaders of a particular political party (please click here, here and here to access). A population control programme in states like Uttar Pradesh was also advocated by some political leaders despite the fact that the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) had reduced from 2.7 in 2015-16 to 2.4 in 2020-21 in that state. In the melee that erupted after the release of the report, the population growth of Muslims was held responsible for India lagging behind China in terms of economic prosperity, thereby diminishing the country's chance to become a "Viswa Guru".  

Needless to say that the Uttar Pradesh State Government had introduced a population control bill last year. That bill on population control denies government jobs, promotions, subsidies and the right to contest elections to citizens (who are likely to be the poor and the marginalised citizens) who have more than two children. A draft of the Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilization and Welfare) Bill, 2021 was submitted by the Uttar Pradesh Law Commission in August 2021 to disincentivise families who don't follow a two-child norm.

In the brouhaha surrounding which religious community is responsible for population growth, two important takeaways of the report published by UNDESA, short for United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, have been missed, which are: 

• The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center at the University of Washington, has projected a TFR of 1.29 births per woman in 2100 for India instead of 1.69 in the United Nations medium scenario, resulting in a population that is 433 million smaller than according to the United Nations projections at the end of the century.

• Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially those related to health, education and gender equality, will contribute to reducing fertility levels and slowing global population growth.

The above-mentioned two points clearly indicate that if a country wishes to lower fertility and slow down population growth, then it should invest in health and education of its citizens, including women and provide necessary services, keeping in mind the SDGs. Thankfully India is on the right track due to which the projected population by the end of this century would be lower than what was estimated earlier. During the media discourse following the release of the World Population Prospects 2022, the above two points did not receive much attention of the journalists. 

Trends in the population of Hindu and Muslim communities

Memes, jokes, rumours, etc. on the Muslim community’s population growth often overcrowd the social media. Wrong facts about their fertility are shared deliberately to further polarise the society in the name of religion for electoral gains. A data-driven analysis helps one to debunk the myth that has been created about the role of the Muslim community in “population explosion”.

Table 1: Hindu and Muslim population in various Census years

Source: # Religious Composition of India by Stephanie Kramer, September 21, 2021, Pew Research Center, please click here to access  

* Handbook on Social Welfare Statistics 2016, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, please click here to access
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The leaders of a particular political party often draw our attention to the fact that the percentage share of Muslims in India’s population has grown from 9.8 percent to 14.2 percent between 1951 and 2011 while the percentage share of Hindus has dwindled from 84.1 percent to 78.35 percent. However, table-1 shows that the decadal growth rates of the population of both Hindus and Muslims have decelerated. 

Fertility by religion 

The TFR is a summary measure that is calculated as five times the sum (over five-year age groups) of the age-specific fertility rates. The TFR is interpreted as the number of children a woman would bear during her reproductive years (15-49 years or 15-44 years) if she were to experience the age-specific fertility rates prevailing during the three-year period preceding the survey. A document related to NFHS-1 says that the numerator of each age-specific fertility rate is live births in a five-year age group, and the denominator is the number of woman-years lived in the same five-year age interval during the three-year time period

Table 2: Fertility by religion -- Total Fertility Rate for the 3 years preceding the survey, percentage of women age 15-49 currently pregnant, and mean number of children ever born to women age 40-49 years

Note: **Jain women -- NFHS-3, Based on 125-249 unweighted woman-years of exposure 
* Percentage not shown; based on fewer than 25 unweighted cases
***Based on 25-49 unweighted cases

Source: National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21), India Report, released in March 2022, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), please click here to access  

National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16), India Report, released in December, 2017, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), please click here to access  

National Family Health Survey-3 (2005-06), Volume 1, India Report, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), please click here to access 

Chapter-4: Fertility and Fertility Preferences, National Family Health Survey-2 (1998-99), India Report, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), please click here to access 

Chapter-5: Fertility, National Family Health Survey-1 (1992-93), India Report, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), please click here to access 

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During 2019-21, the highest level of TFR was found among Muslim women (2.36), followed by Hindu women (1.94), Christian women (1.88), Sikh women (1.61), Jain women (1.60), and Buddhist/Neo-Buddhist women (1.39). However, on average, the TFR among Muslim women of age 15-49 years dropped by 0.51 points over various rounds of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), whereas in the case of Hindu women the TFR fell by 0.34 points. Between NFHS-1 and NFHS-5, the TFR fell by 1.36 points for Hindu women and 2.05 points for Muslim women. In the case of Jain women, the TFR has escalated between NFHS-4 and NFHS-5. Please see table-2.

Note: Same as table-2
Source: Same as table-2

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From graph-1, it is clear that the TFR for Muslim women has fallen faster than the TFR of Hindu women over various rounds of NFHS. The line depicting the TFRs of Muslim women is steeper than the line showing the TFRs of Hindu women.

A relook at table-2 shows that barring the Sikh, Jain and Buddhist/Neo-Buddhist women, the percentage of women of age 15-49 years who were pregnant (at the time of the survey) has gone down over successive NFHS rounds irrespective of their religious backgrounds. Similarly, the mean number of children ever born to women of age 40-49 years has reduced over successive NFHS rounds irrespective of their religious backgrounds (except 'other' religion).  

How is TFR related to population expansion?

As a whole, the TFR at the national level has diminished over successive rounds of NFHS -- 3.39 in 1992-93, 2.85 in 1998-99, 2.68 in 2005-06, 2.18 in 2015-16 and 1.99 in 2019-21. Thus, the TFR for India has gone down just below the replacement-level fertility in 2019-21. According to the United Nations, the replacement-level fertility is reached when the TFR of a place (i.e., a region or a country) becomes 2.1 children per woman. This value represents the average number of children a woman would need to have to reproduce herself by bearing a daughter who survives to childbearing age. If replacement-level fertility is sustained over a sufficiently long period, each generation will exactly replace itself in the absence of migration. If the TFR is greater than 2.1, then the population of a place or region will increase, and if it is less than 2.1, then the population of that place or region will eventually decrease, although it may take a while because factors such as age structure, emigration, or immigration should also be taken into account.

The note on TFR by the UN warns that "[o]ver the long run, however, especially if fertility continues decline, the share of the population of working age also declines and that of older persons increases, leading to rising dependency ratios. In countries experiencing below-replacement fertility (lower than 2.1 children per women), population ageing accelerates and the fact that a generation does not produce enough children to replace itself eventually leads to outright reductions in population. It is not yet clear to what extent declining and ageing populations may have beneficial effects on sustainable development."

Role of contraceptive use in reducing TFR

The Contraceptive Prevalence Rate-CPR (any modern method) for the country soared up from 36.3 percent in 1992-93 to 56.4 percent in 2019-21. The CPR among currently married Muslim women was found to be the lowest (in comparison to that of currently married women from other non-Muslim communities) in all the five rounds of the NFHS. Please take a look at graph-2. 

Source: National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21), India Report, released in March 2022, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), please click here to access  

National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16), India Report, released in December, 2017, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), please click here to access

Chapter 5: Family Planning, National Family Health Survey-3 (2005-06), Volume-1, India Report, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), please click here and here to access  

Chapter 5: Family Planning, National Family Health Survey-2 (1998-99), India Report, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), please click here and here to access  

Chapter 6: Family Planning, National Family Health Survey-1 (1992-93), India Report, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), please click here and here to access 
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The low CPR among Muslims is often held responsible for the fertility differential between them and other religious communities. However, the gap between the CPRs among currently married Hindu women and currently married Muslim women has shrunk from 15.7 percentage points in 1992-93 to 10.60 percentage points in 2019-21. It means that the use of any modern contraceptive method has grown faster among the currently married Muslim women vis-à-vis the currently married Hindu women in the recent times, thus narrowing the gap.

According to a note prepared by the United Nations, the Contraceptive Prevalence Rate is generally defined as the percent of women of reproductive age (15-49 years) using any method of contraception at a given point in time. It is usually calculated for married women of reproductive age, but sometimes for other base population, such as all women of reproductive age at risk of pregnancy.

Fertility by schooling

Why does the recently released UNDESA report give emphasis on education? Does women’s education matter for reducing fertility? Data shows that the TFR falls as the number of years of schooling for women rises. This was true not just for NFHS-5 but also for the two rounds previous to it (except in the case of 5-7 years schooling completed by women pertaining to NFHS-3). TFR was the highest among women without schooling for each round of the NFHS. Please consult table-3.

The gap between the TFRs among women with 'no schooling' and women with '12 or more years complete' has decreased from 1.75 points in 2005-06 to 1.35 points in 2015-16, and further reduced to 1.04 points in 2019-21.  

Table 3: Fertility by schooling -- Total fertility rate for the 3 years preceding the survey, percentage of women age 15-49 currently pregnant, and mean number of children ever born to women age 40-49 years

Note: Same as table-2
Source: Same as table-2

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Similarly, the mean number of children ever born to women of age 40-49 years decreases as the number of years of schooling for women rises. Women of age 40-49 years without schooling have the highest mean number of children ever born to them. This pattern was observed in NFHS-3, NFHS-4 and NFHS-5. 
 
There is no consistent relationship between the percentage of women who are current pregnant and the number of years of their schooling.

When active prevention of Muslim girls and women from attending government schools and colleges in Karnataka, on the grounds that they wear the hijab, a headscarf, was taking place, several social activists stated (please click here and here to access) that the move by youths from a certain political group violated not just the fundamental rights of the girls/women, including those of freedom (Article 19, 25) and equality (Article 14), but also their right to education. 

Fertility by wealth index

As one moves from the lowest to the highest wealth quintile, the TFR falls. This was seen for the last three rounds of NFHS. TFR was the highest among women in the lowest wealth quintile for each round of the NFHS. Kindly have a look at table-4. 

The gap between the TFRs among women from the 'lowest wealth quintile' and women from the 'highest wealth quintile' has shrunk from 2.11 points in 2005-06 to 1.63 points in 2015-16, and further contracted to 1.06 points in 2019-21.

Table 4: Fertility by wealth index -- Total fertility rate for the 3 years preceding the survey, percentage of women age 15-49 currently pregnant, and mean number of children ever born to women age 40-49 years

Note: Same as table-2
Source: Same as table-2

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Similarly, as one moves from the lowest to the highest wealth quintile, the mean number of children ever born to women (age 40-49 years) decreases. Women (age 40-49 years) in the lowest wealth quintile had the highest mean number of children ever born to them. This pattern was seen in NFHS-3, NFHS-4 and NFHS-5. 
 
The percentage of women currently pregnant (i.e., at the time of survey) decreases as one moves from the lowest to the highest wealth quintile. This was also observed in each of the three rounds of NFHS.

Source: Same as graph-2
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Graph-3 shows that the Contraceptive Prevalence Rate -- CPR (any modern method) among currently married women increases as one moves from the lowest to the highest wealth quintile. This was noticed in NFHS-3, NFHS-4 and NFHS-5.

The gap between the CPRs of currently married women in the highest wealth quintile and currently married women in the lowest wealth quintile has decreased from 23.4 percentage points in 2005-06 to 16.8 percentage points in 2015-16, and further fell to 8.0 percentage points in 2019-21. For the fourth and fifth (highest) wealth quintiles, the CPRs of currently married women fell between 2005-06 and 2015-16, and then went up in 2019-21.

 

References

National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21), India Report, released in March 2022, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), please click here to access

National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16), India Report, released in December, 2017, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), please click here to access

National Family Health Survey-3 (2005-06), India Report, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), please click here to access

National Family Health Survey-2 (1998-99), India Report, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), please click here to access

National Family Health Survey-1 (1992-93), India Report, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), please click here to access

Combined Factsheet Compendium (States/UTs from Phase-II), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, please click here to access

India Fact Sheet NFHS-5, IIPS, MoHFW, please click here to access

Handbook on Social Welfare Statistics 2016, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, please click here to access 

A Note on Total Fertility Rate, United Nations, please click here to access

A Note on Contraceptive Prevalence Rate, United Nations, please click here to access

World Population Prospects 2022, published by United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, released on July 11, 2022, please click here to access

Religious Composition of India by Stephanie Kramer, September 21, 2021, Pew Research Center, please click here to access

Proposed Draft Bill: Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilization and Welfare) Bill, 2021, Livelaw.in, 19 July, 2021 please click here to access

Stop targeting & excluding hijab wearing muslim women students because it affects their RTE, states NCEE, Press statement by the National Coalition on the Education Emergency (NCEE) dated February 21, 2022, kindly click here and here (English version)here (Hindi version) to access the press statement by the National Coalition on the Education Emergency on the targeting and exclusion of hijab wearing Muslim women students

News alert: Kerala and Tamil Nadu bucked the trend of falling Total Fertility Rate, indicates the latest NFHS data, Inclusive Media for Change, December 11, 2021, please click here to access

News alert: Official data on determinants of fertility has lessons for the misguided electorate, Inclusive Media for Change, November 24, 2021, please click here to access

India Will Have Largest Population But Data Show The Growth Is Slowing -Govindraj Ethiraj, 19 July, 2022, IndiaSpend.com, please click here to access

BJP warns of ‘asuntalan’ in population control, Opp says see beyond politics, The Indian Express, July 12, 2022, please click here to access

India to beat China as most populous nation by ’23: UN, Pioneer News Service, 12 July, 2022, please click here to read more

‘Like mouth of Sursa’: Giriraj Singh seeks tough population control law, draws comparison with China - Kanishka Singharia, Hindustan Times, July 11, 2022, please click here to read more  

NFHS-5: Why birth control remains a woman’s burden in India -Geeta Pandey, BBC, 27 June, 2022, please click here to access

UP Population Bill: Fighting Imaginary Demons -Subodh Varma, Newsclick.in, 15 July, 2021, please click here to access

India Needs Employment Generation, Not Population Control -Deepankar Basu, TheWire.in, 14 July, 2021, please click here to access  

 

Image Courtesy: UNDP India



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