Surveys have disclosed that the Fertility rates have been declining over the years from 2.9 on average in 2010 to 2.8 in 2018 in the Middle East and Africa region. Elsewhere too, over the generations, women picked up a career over marriages and children.
New Delhi: Let us discuss three countries – India, China and the United States and the three recent headlines; need not be in that order. What's going around Motherhood?
More Americans – if not the most say they are not keen on a child. China's birth rate plunges to its lowest in the last 40 years, and closer home in India – the fertility rate has dropped below the 'replacement level'.
The total fertility rate of India in 2017 stood at 2.2. The National Family Health Survey said India's total fertility rate dropped below the replacement level of 2.1. It is now at 2.0.
In the Indian context, it is suggested that every woman should have 2.1 children if we are to replace the fast declining existing population. Yes, the small family norm propagated once in a rather scandalous and jocular manner has taken the country itself for a toss.
If the present population in India should be 'replaced', the average Indian women need to have more than two babies. According to the 2011 census, the number of single women in India had grown a staggeringly high 39 per cent.
But the hard reality on the ground is that an average Indian woman – focused on career and, of course, addicted to other things, including mobile phones – is not having over two children. Men have their issues- good for nothing, mostly because of lifestyle and changing food habits. Experts say in cities like Mumbai, impotence on average is higher than someone would have in a remote Himachal village.
Even advanced economies offer typical challenges. In South Korea, the fertility rate is one. Stunned, the government in Korea is now proposing even dating allowance for the employees! In Singapore and Hong Kong, the fertility rate is 1.1. The 'below 2' fertility rate countries are – Canada, Spain and Italy. The US has recorded 1.7 birth on average per woman.
The world has changed very fast. In ancient Rome, women were divorced for not giving birth to a child. Once upon a time in China, too, not having a child led to broken marriages. In the new era, China feels its one-child norm has only harmed the lifestyle and social structures.
Korea has also opened to what the locals say – the 'no marriage movement'. Imagine hundreds and thousands of women squatting in Shaheen Bagh or Jantar Mantar in Delhi or Azad Maidan in Mumbai amid slogans against wed-locks. In several countries in Asia – women went out of their homes for jobs, but they were expected to stick to well-established rules of the traditional game-do household chores.
In some parts of South Asia-not long ago – people 'wisely' believed- three kinds of leadership are bound to fail – Shishi, Stri and Bhritya- children, women and slaves/servants. Over the generations, women picked up a career over marriages and children. In the US, couples are showing more and more preference to stay 'child free'.
The global experts say factors generally associated with increased fertility include the intention to have children, very high gender equality, inter-generational transmission of values, marriages, maternal and social support, and the pro-family government measures.
On the other hand, in poor countries, fertility rates are higher due to the lack of access to contraceptives and generally lower levels of female education.
Experts have also reported based on research that the developed countries and the societies tend to have 'lower fertility rates due to lifestyle choices associated with economic affluence where mortality rates are low, birth control is easily accessible, and children often can become an economic drain due to housing problems, high education costs and other costs involved in bringing up children.
Observers say the married couples worldwide prefer 'smaller families with hardly one child or no child' because they are apprehensive of the future.
There are a plethora of reasons also for this. One is the cost of living, health care, and education in urban hubs, say in Hong Kong, due to climate change, etc. The recent pandemic and shutdowns have only made it worse.