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Alarming Decline in India’s sex ratio projected

10 June 2017

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[two news reports are posted below]

Hindustan Times, 18 April 2017

India’s skewed sex ratio to worsen further, says a government report

The sex ration will dip to 898 girls for 1,000 boys in 2031, says a ministry of statistics and programme implementation report

Chetan Chauhan (Hindustan Times, New Delhi)

NEW DELHI: As India’s proportion of youth in the total population falls, the sex ratio will dip to 898 girls for 1,000 boys in 2031 from 939 in 2011, a new government study has projected.

Quoting data from the Census and World Bank, a ministry of statistics and programme implementation report said the negative aspect of youth in India was that the sex ratio among them has been consistently decreasing since 1991.

“The reduction in sex ratio of youth is found to be much more than that of the overall population. It has come down to 939 in 2011 from 961 in 1971 and is projected to decline further to 904 in 2021 and to 898 by 2031,” the report titled youth in India said.

The projection is based on very low sex ratio at birth in India.

The number of girls born for 1,000 boys — the definition of sex ratio — was 914 in 2011 and is projected to fall further in coming decades. “The newborns would fall in the youth category in the next 20 years and its implications will be visible in overall youth demography of the country,” said Ranjani Kumar, director of a Delhi-based advocacy group, the Centre for Social Research.

While the number of young people in population in absolute numbers will rise, the report projected that its proportion to population will fall for the first time from 34.8% in 2011 to 31.8% in 2031.

“The share of youth in total population has increased from 30.6% in the year 1971 to 34.8% in the year 2011,” he said.

But that may not change India’s being the youngest country in the world as similar trends would be seen in China and Indonesia, the two other countries with a large young population.

“By 2010, India accounted for 17.8% of the world population, recording an increase of 2.7% in its share since 1970. This growth is projected to continue and by 2030, Indians would account for 17.97 of global population,” the report said.

While the population of youth is projected to increase by about 81 million in 2031, the worrisome trend is of rising suicide among young. The report said suicide among youth accounted for 33% of such deaths in India in 2015, a three percentage point increase since 2010. The biggest contributor for taking one’s life was relationship discord.

o o o - June 9, 2017

India’s deepening gender imbalance

The sex ratio at birth for most Indian states is below normal

Pramit Bhattacharya

India’s problem of gender imbalance may be deepening, with virtually all corners of the country now affected by a skewed sex ratio at birth, data from the latest round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) shows.

The survey of over 6 lakh households conducted in 2015-16 shows that districts with the lowest sex ratios at birth now include several districts of states such as Assam and Nagaland in the north-east and Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in the south. These are states where overall sex ratio is higher than the rest of the country, and where social outcomes—such as literacy, work participation rates etc.—are more favourable to women than in most other parts of the country.

As the accompanying map shows, districts marked in deep red—those with sex ratio at birth below 800—are spread across the length and breadth of the country. This is in contrast to the patterns observed for the overall sex ratio. Districts with low sex ratios (overall) are largely clustered in the north-western parts of the country. Sex ratio refers to the number of females per 1,000 males. NFHS records both the overall sex ratio in the year of the survey, and the sex ratios at birth for those born in the past five years.

To be sure, there are silver linings in the data. Some of the states with the most skewed sex ratios such as Punjab and Haryana have witnessed an improvement in the sex ratios at birth over the past decade. India’s aggregate sex ratio at birth has also improved, albeit marginally, from 914 in 2005-06 (when the previous NFHS round was conducted) to 919 in the latest round of the survey. But states where the sex ratio at birth has either declined or stagnated over the past decade outnumber states where the sex ratio at birth has improved.

Also, for an overwhelming majority of states as well as for India as a whole, the sex ratio at birth figures remain below normal. Globally, more males than females are born but because of higher survival chances, more females survive compared to males. Thus, the normal sex ratio at birth is not exactly 1,000. According to UN estimates, the average range for developing countries is 943-971. By that yardstick, two-thirds of Indian states have below-normal sex ratios at birth. Among large Indian states, only Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have normal or above-normal sex ratios at birth.

In many of the states where sex ratios at birth has declined, the urban areas fare worse than the rural areas. For instance, some of the districts with the lowest sex ratios include relatively urbanized districts such as Jorhat and Kamrup in Assam, Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, and Udipi in Karnataka. Overall, India’s urban sex ratio at birth at 899 is significantly lower than that in rural India at 927. Many of the districts with extremely skewed sex ratios at birth are urbanized, and tend to have a higher proportion of richer households (those with TV, computer, phone, and motorised 2-wheeler/ 4-wheeler as per census 2011 data) compared to other districts.

The problem of a skewed sex ratio at birth is not entirely new in India but it has spread and grown over time. An analysis of the 1901 census data by US-based demographers Tanika Chakraborty and Sukkoo Kim showed that the sex ratio was lowest in the northern parts of the country, slightly higher in the east, and significantly higher in the south. Their research published in 2012 shows that sex ratio was lower among upper castes than lower castes, and lower among Hindus than among Muslims. The authors linked the divergence in sex ratio to different kinship patterns and inheritance norms prevailing within the country. India’s sex ratio was below-normal primarily owing to the low sex ratio in the northern parts at that time, Chakraborty and Kim showed.

According to some scholars, the regional differences in sex ratios may have arisen because of historical farming and occupational patterns. According to these scholars, rice-growing regions have traditionally witnessed greater female participation in farming compared to wheat-growing regions, and hence may have always valued women more.

There has been a convergence in sex ratios over the past century but this has largely been due to southern states (except for Kerala) regressing to the mean rather than due to northern states progressing.

The latest data from the NFHS can be seen largely as a continuation of that trend.

Dipti Jain contributed to this story

This is the concluding part of a three-part series on health and social outcomes in India based on data from NFHS 2015-16. The first part of this series looked at the growing problem of obesity among adults, and the second part examined the variations in child nutrition outcomes across Indian districts. The district-level data for the story


The above reports are reproduced here for educational and non commercial use