- Is TFR a good indicator to study/predict development of a country or State?
Total fertility rates may be a good indicator of future population growth or decline for a country or state. The high fertility rates are inversely related to the incidence of extreme poverty, gender inequality, maternal mortality and poor child health, and other dimensions of sustainable development.
The International Conference on Population and Development shifted the focus from population control to sustainable development and recognition of the need for reproductive health and rights, addressing the `life cycle approach’. We should aim to improve people’s access to quality health care, education, income, skills and work holistically.
2. Is India anywhere near the replacement level TFR of 2.1? If so, when will we have population stability?
India is on the verge of achieving replacement level of fertility. 24 states have already achieved the replacement level TFR. India will hopefully record TFR of 2.1 by 2021-22. That said, it is important that we not only reach the unreached, and those who have an unmet need for family planning, which is currently 13 per cent approximately in India. Having access to family planning services is part of a couple’s sexual and reproductive rights, this will also reduce the burden of unplanned pregnancy and ensure that every child is a wanted child.
3. Sikkim is a unique case. It has the lowest TFR in the country while most other NE states have TFR above replacement levels. What does this imply in terms of current state of development of healthcare in the state and what are some other development indicators of the same?
The reduced TFR will result in an age-structural transformation wherein the state will have an aging population in the long run. This would increase the elderly dependency ratio and increased morbidity levels in terms of non-communicable diseases. The state will require huge amount of resources for financial support of elderly and address their health care needs.
Low fertility reduces the rate of scientific and other innovations since innovations mainly come from younger individuals. Younger individuals are generally more adaptable, which is why new industries, like high tech start-ups, attract younger workers who are not committed to older and declining industries.
4. What problems do you envision the State will face in the coming future because of the low TFR? And how can it be prepared to tackle them?
Sikkim might face an increasingly aging population, workers in short supply and a decline in sex ratio. With shrinking active labour force, the state economy is expected to witness loss in economic output and income levels.
Sikkim may better prepare to tackle them by eliminating obstacle to marriage, reduction in marriage age, allocating adequate resources for women especially during pregnancy and lactation, development and strengthening the social security system. The state must invest resources for financial support of elderly and address their health care needs.
5. What measures can the State take to improve TFR?
Sikkim can provide benefits, such as paid maternity leaves and better child care facilities to families that have additional babies so that employed women do not feel deprivation of their jobs and earnings as a result of child birth. The government could also think of providing a bonus in cash to each additional child that is born so that the amount can be deposited in the bank in the child’s name for its development.Government benefits—in the form of tax credits, for example, or state-run day care—can make raising children more manageable.
6. South Indian states are up in arms against the 15th FC on population issues – your comments.
As per 15th Finance Commission’s (FC) recommendation, 2011 Census is to be used as the benchmark for allocating funds to the states instead of the 1971 Census used thus far. Implementing the recommendation will have a reduced transfer of funds from Centre to South Indian states.
Reducing the population growth does not mean lesser expenditures for these states. They have greater commitments to create employment opportunities for the large economically active population and youth who are already in place and address the needs of the vulnerable and socially marginalized communities including the elderly which requires large amounts of development expenditure.