India has more women than men for the first time, study shows | India

India has more women than men for the first time in its recorded history and is no longer experiencing population growth, according to a government survey that points to significant societal shifts in the country.

The fifth National Family and Health Survey (NFHS) conducted by the government between 2019 and 2021 shows that India now has 1,020 women for every 1,000 men.

The survey of about 650,000 households also found that India’s reproductive rate had fallen to an average of 2, marking the first time it is below replacement fertility level. In urban areas it was even lower, at 1.6.

This means that not enough children are being born to replace the older generation, suggesting that India’s population of nearly 1.4 billion people is nearing its peak, and is an important shift for a country where women averaged in their 1950s. had six children.

India’s transition to a predominantly female population is also a remarkable moment for a country that has been one of the “missing women” for centuries, referring to the millions of girls who have been murdered before or shortly after birth as a result of social stigma against them. giving birth to a daughter. It indicates progress is being made in tackling gender-selective abortions, female feticide and neglect of girls and women, which have had a major impact on the female population.

In 1990, when Indian Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen first wrote about the 37 million missing women in India as a result of these factors, the ratio of women to men was 927 women to 1,000 men.

Poonam Muttreja, the Executive Director of the Population Foundation of India, said: “It is encouraging to see the improvements in the overall gender ratio. It reflects the steps the country has taken towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.”

Muttreja stressed that a full picture of the changing sex ratio in India would not become clear until the census, which was due to take place in 2021 but is currently postponed, has been carried out. India’s last census took place in 2011.

Despite clear progress, the gender ratio at birth still remains at 929 females for every 1,000 males, according to the survey, indicating that the issue of sex choice and female feticide has not been eliminated.

“With better access to literacy and education, women’s aspirations are changing rapidly,” Muttreja says. “Girls are asserting themselves and taking charge of their lives, and will play a vital role in the growth and development of the country in the future.”

The findings on India’s declining fertility rate may also have political implications. Several Indian states, such as Assam and Uttar Pradesh, have introduced population control bills, including limiting access to state benefits, rations and government jobs for those with more than two children.

They have been proposed on the basis that the Indian population needs to be brought under control. But these bills are also seen as a communal touch, playing on the Hindu right-wing’s fears that India’s Muslim population is increasing and creating a “dangerous demographic imbalance”.

India is still not expected to experience a population decline for the next 30 or 40 years, currently the second largest in the world, in part because more than 30% are between the ages of 10 and 30 and likely children over the next two decades.

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