Not Pop­u­la­tion But So­cial De­vel­op­ment

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

Andhra Pradesh chief min­is­ter Nara Chan­drababu Naidu wants ev­ery­one to have more chil­dren. He wor­ries that In­dia is rapidly grey­ing and would soon end up in a sit­u­a­tion akin to age­ing Ja­pan. Naidu’s ad­vice is gra­tu­itous and in poor taste. In 2013, the av­er­age In­dian woman gave birth to 2.3 chil­dren — a num­ber called the ‘fer­til­ity rate’. This is still above what de­mog­ra­phers call the ‘re­place­ment rate’, which mea­sures the av­er­age num­ber of chil­dren per woman re­quired to keep the pop­u­la­tion stable, reck­oned to be 2.1. So, Naidu need not worry him­self sick about In­dia turn­ing into Ja­pan any­time soon.

In­dia’s pop­u­la­tion growth is fall­ing as in­comes grow and so­cial con­di­tions change for the bet­ter. In 2013, for ex­am­ple, the poor­est and least so­cially pro­gres­sive states had the high­est fer­til­ity rates: Bi­har’s was 3.4, Ut­tar Pradesh (3.1), Mad­hya Pradesh (2.9) and Ra­jasthan (2.8). The so­cial con­di­tion, ed­u­ca­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties of women in th­ese states are ap­palling. With­out ex­cep­tion, th­ese states are eco­nom­i­cally back­ward. Un­sur­pris­ingly, so­cially pro­gres­sive West Ben­gal (1.6), Tamil Nadu and Delhi (1.7) and Ker­ala (1.8) have the low­est fer­til­ity rates in In­dia. The con­clu­sion is ob­vi­ous: as in­comes rise, cou­ples de­cide to in­vest more in their chil­dren, rather than pro­duc­ing armies of fu­ture farmhands. This fits with the half­cen­tury-old in­sights of Gary Becker, who won the No­bel Prize for eco­nom­ics in 1992, for his work on ‘hu­man cap­i­tal’.

The peo­ple of Andhra Pradesh, where the fer­til­ity rate is 1.8, on par with Ker­ala, choose to have fewer kids be­cause they want to in­vest more in each child. That way, th­ese par­ents hope their chil­dren will be smarter and have more op­por­tu­ni­ties than they ever had. Who is Naidu to tell them oth­er­wise? Get so­cial de­vel­op­ment right, pop­u­la­tion will right it­self.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.