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Total Fertility Rate and population stabilisation

Shailaja Chandra has written an article in Indian Express about the need for population stabilisation in India and how Total Fertility Rate (TFR) being the most useful indicators of fertility helps us undersatnd the issue.

What is Total Fertility Rate

  • Total fertility rate (TFR) is the average number of children a woman will have over her childbearing years (15-49) The total fertility rate is defined as the average number of children that would be born to a woman by the time, she ends childbearing.
  • The National Population Policy 2000 affirmed a commitment to achieve replacement levels of fertility (total fertility rate of 2.1) by 2010.
  • Below-replacement fertility is defined as a combination of fertility and mortality levels that leads to a negative population growth rate, hence a declining population size
  • India’s total fertility rate, fell from 3.2 in 2000 to 2.2 in 2018.
  • As per National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 in 19 of the 22 surveyed states, TFRs were found to be ‘below-replacement’ levels.
  • Soon, it’s expected to fall to the replacement fertility level of 2.1, after which births would balance deaths and our headcount will stabilize.
  • United Nations projects India’s population to reach 1.66 billion by 2050, then stabilize and steadily fall.
Total fertility rate
Total fertility rate (TFR) NFHS-5 Credit: DTE

Total Fertility Rate Several measures are needed

  • Girls have to be educated, and married late.
  • Front-line workers need adequate training in reproductive health choices that they can communicate with both men and women.
  • Facilities need to be strengthened in terms of infrastructure, equipment and manpower.
  • There must be easy accessibility of all contraceptives approved in India’s national health plan.
  •  The state needs to do three things: incentivise later marriages and child births, make contraception easy for women and promote women’s labour force participation.{In 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, female labor force participation in India was 23.5%, according to ILO estimates.}


  • No other country in the world uses female sterilisation as excessively as India.
  • Even Kerala with all its progress still relies on female sterilisation (above 88 per cent) as the predominant modern method of contraception.

Demographic Dividend in India

  • India has one of the youngest populations in an aging world.
  • By 2020, the median age in India will be just 28, compared to 37 in China and the US, 45 in Western Europe, and 49 in Japan.
  • Since 2018, India’s working-age population (people between 15 and 64 years of age) has grown larger than the dependant population children aged 14 or below as well as people above 65 years of age.
  • This bulge in the working-age population is going to last till 2055, or 37 years from its beginning.
  • This transition happens largely because of a decrease in the total fertility rate (TFR, which is the number of births per woman) after the increase in life expectancy gets stabilised.



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