Friday, October 12, 2007

More Indians want small family: Survey

Indian families are shrinking, thanks to a constant decline in the fertility rate. According to the latest data from the National Family Health Survey-III, an increasing number of couples want a maximum of two children. This has caused the fertility rate to drop from 2.9 in 2000 to 2.7 in 2006.

Urban women have already achieved replacement level fertility — a maximum of two children per couple. They have recorded a total fertility rate of 2.1. Over 10 states, mostly in south India, have also reached replacement level or below replacement level fertility.

However, the TFR among rural women is still too high and stands at an average of three children per family. It is specially the case in eight states and is particularly high — 3.7-4.0 — in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland.

S K Das, additional director general (statistics) of the Union health ministry, told TOI, "In our National Population Policy of 2000, we set a goal of achieving replacement level fertility of 2.1 children per woman nationally by the year 2010. This will help India’s swelling population to stabilise. NFHS-III findings show we are well on track."

In another exciting finding, the survey has found an increasing desire to have a girl child. Even though a son is still preferred, over 62% of women with two daughters and no sons said they wanted no more children.

In the NFHS-II survey conducted in 2000, 53% women wanted a third child hoping to have a son.

Senior gender specialist of Macro International Sunita Kishor said, "The preference of a son continues to exist but there is clear evidence that women who already have two children, even if they are girls, don’t want a third child even if it for a son."

Experts are attributing the declining fertility to women’s increased use of contraception. For the first time ever, more than 56% married women are using some method of contraception. The overall contraceptive prevalence rate is much higher in urban areas (64%) than in rural areas (53%). A rise in the average age at marriage is also contributing to the drop in fertility.

Over 45% of women aged 20-24 were married before the legal age of marriage of 18 years, compared with 50% seven years earlier.

This has influenced the median age at first birth, which increased by six months to 19.8 years.

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