India recently became the world’s most populous nation, surpassing China with 1.4 billion people. However, India’s population growth is below the replacement fertility rate, making it a big deal.
Replacement Fertility Rate Explained
The replacement fertility rate is the average number of children a woman must have to maintain a stable population, typically set at 2.1 children per woman.
Variations in Replacement Fertility Rate in India
India’s replacement fertility rate is 2, but there are significant variations across the country, ranging from 1.6 in Punjab and West Bengal to 3 in Bihar among large states, according to Indian government data.
The “Window of Opportunity”
Rachel Snow, the lead demographer of the UN Population Fund, suggests that while India’s young population entering the reproductive phase will boost fertility, a decline will eventually follow.
India has a “window of opportunity” to mobilize investments in education, job creation, and gender equality to ensure that its large population contributes to economic growth, similar to the Asian Tigers’ model of development.
Lessons from Asian Tigers
The Asian Tigers, including Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore, experienced significant economic growth due to investments in the well-being of their young population, leading to improved living standards.
Challenges for India
India faces challenges such as a large informal labor market, regional educational disparities, and uneven development within a diverse and vast country.
UNFPA’s Focus on Reproductive Rights
The UNFPA’s annual report, “8 Billion Lives, Infinite Possibilities: The Case for Rights and Choices,” emphasizes the importance of women’s ability to make reproductive choices freely. About 44 percent of partnered women and girls lack the right to make decisions about having children, and 257 million women lack access to safe contraception.