From the Viewsroom

Population versus development

Poornima Joshi | Updated on July 13, 2021

UP Govt’s view that rising population hinders growth is misplaced

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has stressed that all sections of society must participate in the new population policy for the State because “increasing population is an obstacle for development”. The truth is the exact antithesis of this popularly-held perception. The UP CM has turned this stereotype of ‘population being the biggest problem of all’ into policy with an eye on his vote bank in the upcoming Assembly elections.

The latest round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) has revealed that India’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR), which is a measure of the number of children born to a woman during her lifetime, has actually shown a marked decline — from 5.9 in 1951 to a national average of 2.2 per woman in NFHS 2015-16; the globally-accepted marker rate for ensuring a stable population is 2.1.

Our policymakers’ implicit fascination for China here is misplaced. Between 1980 and 2016, China enforced a one-child norm that led to a demographic imbalance with a massive ageing population. In 2016, China relaxed the one-child norm to two. And, now, China has relaxed it further, allowing three children per married couple. The sex ratio has also become skewed towards males, owing to the traditional preference; China is stuck with the ‘little emperor’ syndrome.

The NFHS proves that it is, in fact, development that arrests population growth. States which have lower TFR than the national average classify as more developed not just in terms of per capita income but also their Human Development Indices. The TFR for Telangana (1.8), Tamil Nadu (1.7), Kerala (1.6) and Punjab (1.6) is much lower than the national average (2.2). States with higher TFR than the national average are under-developed and these include Bihar, UP, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. The UP CM would do well to focus on improving maternal mortality, infant mortality, nutrition and education for girl children, if he wants to move his State up the socio-economic ladder. Population will sort itself out. Incentives and disincentives to control it have never worked.

Published on July 13, 2021

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