Many who babble on about population explosion are oblivious of the danger of a society depressing its birth rate before it grows prosperous enough to save and provide, from the earnings of a shrinking population of those who work, for a growing dependent population.
Uttar Pradesh and Assam want to pursue population policies to actively discourage families having more than two children, deploying penalties such as exclusion from welfare schemes and from eligibility for government jobs for contesting local polls. This is wrong-headed, as testified to by the experience of China, which, after enforcing a one-child norm, stares at a steep fall in working-age people and has been trying, without success, to get people to have more children.
The State should focus not on family size but on social development and economic progress, which work to stabilise the population. India is progressing on the population front. The total fertility rate (TFR) — the average number of children a woman will have in her lifetime — fell below 2.1%, the replacement level, in a majority of states, showed the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS; 2019-20) that covered 22 states in Phase 1. UP’s TFR declined to 2.7% in 2015-16 from 3.8% in 2005-06, according to NFHS-4 data. Policy must focus on improving social well-being, and educating and equipping the young for productive jobs. Such policies work: see the experience of Indian states, in particular those in the south, and of Bangladesh, which has brought its TFR well below 2.1.
Many who babble on about population explosion are oblivious of the danger of a society depressing its birth rate before it grows prosperous enough to save and provide, from the earnings of a shrinking population of those who work, for a growing dependent population. China, with a per-capita income of some $10,000, is now desperate to raise its birth rate. India, with a per-capita income one-fifth China’s, should draw the right lessons. Invest in people, and you get both prosperity and smaller families.
( Originally published on Jul 12, 2021 )