Declining sex ratio

GS 1 INDIAN SOCIETY Population and associated issues.

GS 2 GOVERNANCE Issues relating to development and management of Human Resource’s.


The sex ratio is the ratio of males to females in a population. The sex ratio for the entire world population is 101 males to 100 females (2018)

Contemporary Issues:

  • Recently released Sample Registration System (SRS) Statistical report (2018),highlighted that fertility rate has been declining in India.
  • In their joint opinion piece, C Rangarajan (former Chairman, Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council) and J K Satia (Professor Emeritus, Indian Institute of Public Health) argue that 
    • need to reach young people both for reproductive health education and services .
    • to cultivate gender equity norms.

Fertility has been declining in India for some time now.

Data: Sample Registration System (SRS) Report

  • Total Fertility Rate (TFR)2.2 in the year 2018.
    • likely to continue to decline.(TFR of 2.1)
      • As fertility declines, so does the population growth rate.
    • estimated the natural annual population growth rate to be 1.38% in 2018.
      • India’s estimated population of 137 crore.
      • means that net 1.9 crore persons would have been added that year.
  • Comparison of 2011 and 2018
    • TFR declined from 2.4 to 2.2.
    • Fertility declined in all major states.
      • 10 states had a fertility rate below the replacement rate in 2011– increased to 14 states.
    • Annual natural population growth rate also declined from 1.47 to 1.38% during this period.
  • Sex ratio at birth:
    • Normal sex ratio at birth is 950 females to 1000 males.
    • SRS reports– declined:906 females to 1000 males.
      • considerable son preference in all states(except Kerala and Chhattisgarh.)
  • UNFPA State of World Population 2020 estimated 
    • sex ratio at birth in India as 910(lower than all the countries in the world except China.)
    • cause for concern – adverse ratio results in a gross imbalance in the number of men and women
    • impact on marriage systems as well as other harms to women.
  • UN Population Division has estimated
  • India’s population would possibly peak at 161 crore around 2061.
  • IHME estimated that it will peak at 160 crore in 2048.

India’s Population – replacement fertility levels:

  • Many people believe that the population would stabilise or begin to reduce in a few years once replacement fertility is reached.
    • not so because of the population momentum effect.
    • a result of more people entering the reproductive age group of 15-49 years .
    • due to the past high-level of fertility.
      • the replacement fertility level was reached in Kerala around 1990
      • but its annual population growth rate was 0.7% in 2018.

Way Forward 

  • India must implement the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 more stringently 
    • Dedicate more resources to fighting the preference for boys.
  • In this context, the Drugs Technical Advisory Board decision to include ultrasound machines in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, is a step in the right direction.
  • Needless to add that estimates so far out in time have considerable uncertainty. 
    • can be mitigated if young people delay childbearing 
    • space their children.
  • Increasing female education and economic prosperity help to improve the ratio.
  • Reach young people for 
    • reproductive health education.
    • cultivate gender equity norms.


     In view of the complexity of son preference resulting in gender-biased sex selection, government actions need to be supplemented by improving women’s status in the society.      

India’s population future depends on it.

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