ESRC Seminar Series: Emerging Fertility Pattern in India – Causes and Implications: July 23-24, 2012

The world is in the midst of a profound demographic transformation. Fifty years ago fertility below the level needed to ensure the replacement of generations (conventionally taken to be “total fertility” of 2.1 children per woman) was all but unknown; today it is becoming a worldwide phenomenon. In 2003 we crossed a historic threshold – now more than half the world’s population live in countries or regions where fertility is at or below replacement. Today, our calculations show, around 3.5 billion people (52% of the global total) live in such places. Roughly 1.35 billion are to be found in Europe, North America and the developed countries of the Asia-Pacific region, a further 1.25 billion live in China. Over 400 million live in parts of India (mostly in the South and West), and over 500 million in other developing countries. The scale of this transformation is huge: fertility in Thailand, Iran, Vietnam and Burma is lower than in the United States; it is lower in Tunisia and Algeria than in France. All these national estimates come from the US Census Bureau’s International Database. Moreover, fertility is still falling in almost all developing countries whilst it is largely stable, or even rising, in Europe and North America. The impact of these trends on such matters as ageing, family structures and social systems is immense. Moreover, the existing literature on both the causes and the implications of very low fertility is almost exclusively concerned with developed countries. This leaves us facing two fundamental and unanswered questions.

How far will fertility fall in the developing world?
How can individuals, families, societies and governments in the developing world best adapt to this new fertility regime?

These questions have scarcely been posed to date, and never investigated in depth. In this context, the Centre for Development Studies is organizing a seminar on Emerging Fertility Patterns in India: Causes and Implications, sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council, United Kingdom, Population Foundation of India and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, India. The seminar is likely to answer the following key questions:

What challenges does low fertility pose in India?
How can governments and NGOs best adapt to these new challenges?

The main geographical focus will fall on Southern India, which is in the avant-garde of fertility decline in India, though the results are sure to have increasing relevance throughout the country as fertility decline continues. This seminar inaugurated by Mr.S Krishna Kumar, former Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. He also released the book titled, Kerala Demographic Future, edited by S Irudaya Rajan and K C Zachariah. The seminar is coordinated by Professor S Irudaya Rajan of the Centre for Development Studies, with Dr. Chris Wilson, St Andrews University, United Kingdom and Dr. Saseendran Pallikadavath, Portsmouth University, United Kingdom. Population experts form various parts of India were actively participated in the seminar.

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