Policymakers in New Delhi under pressure to avert demographic challenges as India's fertility rate declines

26 March,2024 01:55 PM IST |  Mumbai  |  ANI

Experts warn that the rapid decline in fertility rates, coupled with an increase in life expectancy, poses multifaceted challenges for policymakers in New Delhi

Image for representational purposes only. Photo Courtesy: Freepik

As India grapples with a decline in fertility rates, policymakers in New Delhi face mounting pressure to avert the looming demographic challenges reminiscent of ageing Asian economies such as China and Japan.

According to Nikkei Asia, a recent report published in The Lancet journal underscores the urgency for India to take proactive measures as it races against time to mitigate the adverse effects of its dwindling fertility rates.

According to the Lancet report, India's total fertility rate has witnessed a sharp decline over the decades, plummeting from nearly 6.2 in 1950 to just under 2 in 2021.

Projections indicate a further decrease to 1.29 by 2050 and a concerning 1.04 by 2100. This trend aligns with a broader global downtrend in fertility rates, with the global average declining from 4.5 in 1950 to 2.2 in 2021.

The global figure is anticipated to slide further to 1.8 in 2050 and 1.6 in 2100.

Dr Prakhar Singh, Consultant Critical Care and Diabetolgy, OSVI Healthcare said, "The global fertility rate has been progressively declining and in the last 70 years has come down by almost 50 per cent. The situation in India is no different."

Experts warn that the rapid decline in fertility rates, coupled with an increase in life expectancy, poses multifaceted challenges for policymakers in New Delhi.

These challenges include ensuring adequate social security and healthcare provisions for the growing elderly population and creating employment opportunities to harness their skills effectively.

Dr Singh said, "Lower fertility rates, coupled with increased life expectancies around the world, are creating an ageing population. Since 1950, the global median age has grown from 25 years to 33 years. An older population comes with several economic risks, including rising healthcare costs and a smaller global workforce. this ultimately leads to a economic slowdown."

Social imbalances, including wealth disparities and gender biases favoring male children over girls, could exacerbate these challenges, creating stark imbalances among different sections of the population.

Despite the declining fertility rates, the United Nations projects India's population to surpass 1.6 billion by 2050. While a large population presents its own set of challenges, policymakers have long emphasized the potential economic benefits of India's youthful demographic profile, often referred to as a demographic dividend.

However, there is a pressing need to maximize this advantage before India risks falling into the middle-income trap, wherein once-vibrant economies stagnate before reaching high-income status.

Various factors contribute to the decline in fertility rates in India, including obesity, stress, smoking, and environmental pollution.

Research indicates that the general fertility rate in India has dropped by 20 per cent over the past decade, affecting approximately 30 million people.

Dr Zahoorullah S, Chief Innovation Officer AIC ALEAP WEHUB said, "Among the 3,782 identified cases of infertility in women, 1,242 (10.7 per cent) reside in urban areas, where lifestyles characterized by high stress levels and dietary patterns are prevalent. Various field studies have indicated that women engaged in sedentary employment are 20 per cent more likely to experience infertility issues."

The surge in demand for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatments underscores the growing prevalence of infertility issues, with the IVF market projected to reach USD 3.7 billion by 2030, compared to USD 793 million in 2020.

Looking ahead, India is likely to witness a dramatic increase in the population of senior citizens, presenting additional challenges for policymakers in New Delhi.

Unless promptly addressed, the demographic shift will strain social security programs and the country's healthcare infrastructure.

Policymakers must navigate these challenges strategically to ensure sustainable socio-economic development and well-being for all segments of society.

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