The fifth edition of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) confirmed signs of a demographic shift in India. For the first time since the NFHS began in 1992, the proportion of women exceeded men: there were 1,020 women for 1,000 men. In the last edition of the survey in 2015-16, there were 991 women for every 1,000 men.
India is still poised to be the most populous country in the world with the current projection by the United Nations population division forecasting that India’s population will peak around 1.6 to 1.8 billion from 2040-2050. A Government report last year projected that India would overtake China as the world’s most populous country around 2031 — almost a decade later than the United Nations projection of 2022. A notable exception is Kerala, a state with among the highest ratios of women to men at 1,121 and an improvement of over 1,049 recorded in the NFHS-4. However, the TFR in Kerala has increased to 1.8 from 1.6. The State has also reported a decline in the sex ratio of children born in the last five years. There are 1,047 females per 1,000 males in 2015-16 that has now declined to 951 per 1,000 males.
The NFHS surveys are smaller but are conducted at the district level and are a pointer to the future. However, the sex ratio at birth for children born in the last five years only improved from 919 per 1,000 males in 2015-16 to 929 per 1,000, underscoring that boys, on average, continued to have better odds of survival than girls.
Most states and Union Territories (UTs) had more women than men, the NFHS-5 shows. States that had fewer women than men included Gujarat, Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Union territories such as Jammu & Kashmir, Chandigarh, Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Ladakh. All of these States and UTs, however, showed improvements in the population increase of women.
AAP leader Preeti Sharma Menon said, “It is heartening to note that after years of awareness campaigns, finally, the gender ratio in India has tilted towards women. Sadly this has not in any way reduced the crimes against women – 20 women are murdered daily for dowry, 77 are raped every day. Half the reason for the increase in women is that people keep producing a string of girls till finally the coveted son is born. We are nowhere close to changing the patriarchal mindset.”
Sujit Patker a Mumbai based Businessman said, “Both central and state governments have created awareness combined with incentives motivation and governance and empowerment by launching schemes like Manjhi Kanya Bhagyashree, Sukanya Samruddhi, Beto Bachao Beti Padhao, Sabla, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, Swader Greh, Balika Saridhhi Yojana, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana, Ladli Scheme and the Kanya Kosh Scheme. National Scheme of Incentive for the Girls of Secondary Education. Ladli Laxmi Yojana, etc. The improved sex ratio and sex ratio at birth is also a significant achievement; even though the real picture will emerge from the census. However, incoming times balancing and equal empowerment within both genders will be the key to preserving values and culture in India.”
Zenobia Khodaiji, an astrologer said, “Let female population rise or fall, atrocities can not be controlled because there will be a lot of frustration in your guys reached to marriage age. This gap may invite more social anger towards girls. We need education and implementation of the law.”
The complete results of the National Family Health Survey-5 were made public on November 24, 2021. A State-wise breakup of the NFHS data also shows that India is on its way to stabilising its population, with most States and UTs having a Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of less than two. A TFR of less than 2.1, or a woman on average bearing two children over a lifetime, suggests that an existing generation of people will be exactly replaced. Anything less than two suggests an eventual decline in population over time. Only six states: Bihar, Meghalaya, Manipur, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh have a TFR above two. Bihar has a TFR of three which, however, is an improvement from the 3.4 of the NFHS-4. Again, much like the broader trend towards feminisation, the TFR in all States has improved in the last five years.
The findings of NFHS-5 from 22 States & UTs covered in Phase-I were released in December 2020 and the remaining comprising Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, NCT of Delhi, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand were made public on Wednesday.
The NFHS-5 survey work has been conducted in around 6.1 lakh sample households from 707 districts (as of March 2017) of the country; covering 724,115 women and 101,839 men to provide disaggregated estimates up to district level.