Consequences of declining fertility


    In News 

    It has been observed that Average global fertility has been consistently declining over the past 70 years. 

    Total fertility rate 

    • The total fertility rate in a specific year is defined as the total number of children that would be born to each woman if she were to live to the end of her child-bearing years and give birth to children in alignment with the prevailing age-specific fertility rates.

    Key Points 

    • The global population, in terms of numbers, has been steadily increasing — some reports suggest that it could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030 but the average number of children per woman in the reproductive age group has declined by 50%
      •  From an average of five children per woman in 1951 to 2.4 children in 2020, according to the World Population Prospects 2022 .
        • The global fertility rate fell from three in 1990 to 2.3 in 2021. 
    • This is the result of speeding up the social phenomenon of demographic transition. Poorer countries seem to be speeding up the transition ladder a lot faster than the richer ones. 
      • Britain took 130 years to transition from a fertility rate of five per woman in 1800 to two in 1930, whereas South Korea took 20 years from 1965 to 1985 to achieve the same. 

    Indian Scenario : 

    • India’s fertility rate falling below the replacement level for the first time to 2.0 in 2021, according to the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS). The rate has dipped 10% in just five years.
    • At the time of Independence, India’s fertility rate was six per woman, and it had taken 25 years to reach five, with the government launching the first ever family planning programme in the world in 1952. 

    Causes of fertility rate falling

    • The steady dip in fertility rates has been explained as an effect of increased use of contraception, more years of average schooling, better health care, and an increase in the mean marriage age of women.


    • Positives : Countries in the earlier stages of demographic transition find positive effects of lower fertility on income as a major portion of the workforce moves to modern sectors of the economy with fertility dipping. 
      • Lower fertility impacts women’s education positively, which in turn lowers the fertility of the next generations. 
      • The spiral of lower fertility leads to a window of time when the ratio of the working-age population is higher than that of the dependent age groups.
      •  This high proportion of people in the workforce boosts income and investment, given the higher level of saving due to lower dependence.
      • The falling fertility rate will also lead to lower pressure on land, water and other resources and would also contribute to achieving environmental goals. 
      •  Falling fertility will have a positive effect on inflation through higher wages due to lower labour supply 
    • Negatives : 
    • A fall in fertility rate beyond replacement level would have a negative effect on the proportion of the working population, which in turn will affect output in an economy.
    • Japan was the first country to experience the implications of falling fertility rates. The increasing dependency ratio has led to near zero GDP growth since the 1990s, and the country is facing fiscal challenges to meet rising social security costs. 
    • Falling fertility could diminish the creative capacity of humankind .

    Global Efforts 

    • Countries across the globe are experimenting with policies to boost fertility.
      • Germany found success in boosting births through liberal labour laws, allowing more parental leave and benefits. 
      • Denmark offers state-funded IVF for women below 40 years, and Hungary recently nationalised IVF clinics. 
      • Poland gives out monthly cash payments to parents having more than two children, whereas Russia makes a one-time payment to parents when their second child is born. 
      • Russia also reinstituted the Soviet-era ‘Mother Heroine’ title, who bore and raised more than 10 children amounting to almost a one-time payment of ?13 lakh.

    Conclusion  and Way Forward 

    • The fall in fertility around the globe has been a result of decades of demographic process, and hence needs scientific and sustainable policies for mitigation
    • Even though there is looming pessimism about a lower fertility rate, there are ways to get the most out of it and diminish its negative effects. 
    •  Reforms in the labour market to induce more flexibility in the labour market would encourage working women to have more children and non-working mothers to enter the labour market.
    • India’s working-age population will continue to grow for many more decades, it would need to keep an eye on fertility dips. 
    • Liberal labour reforms, encouraging higher female labour force participation rate, and a higher focus on nutrition and health would ensure sustained labour supply and output despite lower fertility.
    •  India, like other countries in the globe, would need to be equipped to aid the patter of more tiny feet sooner or later.

    Mains Practise Question 

    [Q] Lower fertility rates can be viewed as both a cause and consequence of economic development.Comment