The fertility rate of Muslims has seen the steepest decline of any religious community in the past two decades, according to data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), conducted by the Department of Health and Welfare. – to be family.
In line with the downward trend observed over the years, the community’s fertility rate fell from 2.6 in 2015-2016 to 2.3 in 2019-2021. While all religious communities recorded a decline in fertility, contributing to a drop in the country’s total fertility rate, the fall was most marked in the Muslim community, falling from 4.4 in NFHS 1 (1992 -93) to 2.3 in NFHS 5 (2019-2021).
In NFHS 5, the country’s overall fertility fell below the replacement level of two children per woman, from 2.2 in NFHS 4.
The Muslim community’s fertility rate, however, remains the highest of all religious communities, with the Hindu community following at 1.94 in NFHS 5, up from 2.1 in 2015-16. The Hindu community had a fertility rate of 3.3 in 1992-93. NFHS 5 found that the Christian community has a fertility rate of 1.88, the Sikh community 1.61, the Jain community 1.6, and the Buddhist and Neo-Buddhist community 1.39, the highest rate. bottom of the country.
An accelerated decline in the Muslim fertility rate occurred twice – between 1992-93 and 1998-99 as well as between 2005-6 and 2015-16, when it fell by 0.8 points.
“The fertility gap between Hindus and Muslims is narrowing. High fertility is primarily the result of non-religious factors such as levels of literacy, employment, income, and access to health services. The current gap between the two communities is due to the disadvantage of Muslims on these parameters. In recent decades, an emerging Muslim middle class has realized the value of girls’ education and family planning,” said Poonam Muttreja,
executive director of the Population Foundation of India, a non-governmental organization.
The percentage of out-of-school Muslim females increased from 32% in NFHS 4 (2015-16) to 21.9% in NFHS-5 (2019-21). In contrast, for Hindus, there was a marginal change – from 31.4% in NFHS 4 to 28.5% in NFHS 5.
The NFHS 5 report indicates that the number of children per woman decreases with the level of education of women. Women with no schooling have an average of 2.8 children, compared to 1.8 children for women with 12 or more years of schooling. Women in the lowest wealth quintile have an average of 1.0 more children than women in the highest wealth quintile, and economic improvement organically leads to lower fertility rates, according to the report.
“The data also shows that Muslims are increasingly aware of family planning. The use of modern contraception among Muslims increased from 37.9% in NFHS 4 to 47.4% in NFHS 5. The margin of increase was higher than among Hindus,” Muttreja said.
Muslims have also increasingly adopted modern spacing contraceptive methods – from 17% in NFHS 4 to 25.5 in NFHS 5, which is the third highest after Sikhs (27.3%) and Jains ( 26.3%). Spacing refers to when a woman gives birth again after a pregnancy.
“A higher percentage of Muslim men showed a better attitude towards family planning. About 32% of Muslim men believe that contraception is a women’s issue, which men should not worry about. This number was higher for Hindus, at around 36%. According to NFHS 5, birth control pill use is highest among Muslims, while condom use is third highest among Muslims, after Sikhs and Jains. Thus, it is important to recognize the adoption of family planning by the community and to recognize that Islam is in no way an obstacle to family planning. the
Muslim populations in Indonesia and Bangladesh have also experienced declining fertility due to more spacing methods in their public health systems. India needs to do more and expand its basket of contraceptive choices and also include implants in its family planning program,” Muttreja said.
The total fertility rate in rural areas fell from 3.7 children per woman in 1992-93 to 2.1 children in 2019-21. The corresponding decline among women in urban areas went from 2.7 children in 1992-93 to 1.6 children in 2019-21. In all NFHS editions, regardless of place of residence, the fertility rate peaks at ages 20-24, after which it steadily declines.
Thirty-one states and union territories, including all states in the southern, western, and northern regions, have below replacement level fertility of 2.1 children per woman. Bihar and Meghalaya have the highest fertility rates in the country, while Sikkim and Andaman and Nicobar Islands have the lowest.