Largest decline in population growth rate seen among Muslims: NFHS-5 data


National Family Health Survey data belies claims made by right-wing activists of a population boom in the Islamic community as part of an alleged plot to turn India into a Muslim-majority country

Data collected since independence clearly show that a decline in population growth is directly proportional to the economic and social empowerment of a community. Photo: iStock

Latest data obtained from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) belies claims by right-wing activists of a demographic boom in the Islamic community as part of an alleged plot to turn India into a majority country. Muslim.

Recently released NFHS-5 data reveals a steep decline in the total fertility rate (TFR) of the Muslim community over nearly three decades. Interestingly, compared to data from the first NFHS, conducted in 1992-93, data from 2019-21 shows the largest drop in fertility rate in the Muslim community.

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The latest survey reports an overall decline in the fertility rate in India. TFR is the average number of children a woman would have at the end of her childbearing years (15-49). Age-specific fertility rates are calculated for the three years preceding the survey, based on detailed birth histories provided by women.

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The national TFR is 2.0 children per woman, down from 2.2 in the 2015-2016 survey. According to the 2019-21 survey, the TFR of Muslims in India is 2.36, while that of Hindu and Christian communities is 1.94 and 1.88, respectively.

In the first NFHS, conducted in 1992-93, the TFR was 4.41, 3.3, and 2.87, respectively. Between the first and last NFHS, the TFR decline rate is 46.5 percentage points among Muslims, 41.2 percentage points among Hindus, and 34.5 percentage points among Christians, meaning that the rate of ISF decline is greatest among Muslims in the country.

Education and population growth

“There are three components to population growth – fertility, mortality and migration – but people only talk about fertility,” observed Irudaya Rajan, founder and president of the International Institute for Migration and Development.

“The fall in fertility is only accompanied by social and economic emancipation which is reflected in terms of income, education and employment. Those who created the theory that the Muslim population is growing (as part of a program), ignored the backwardness of the community in India in the early years of independence. Over the past three or four generations, the Muslim community has grown, which has begun to be reflected in the rate of population growth as well.

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“People are comparing oranges and apples,” says Irudaya Rajan, adding that comparing the population of different communities without considering social and economic empowerment is a bad analogy.

Historical trend

The downward trend in population growth in the Muslim community started in 2001. Since 2011, the population growth rate in the Hindu community has also fallen to 17.75% from 19.92%. During the same period, the growth rate of the Muslim population fell sharply to 24.6% from 29.52%.

It is pertinent to note that this is a historical trend; the population growth rate of the Muslim community had fallen to 30.78% in the 1971 census, from 32.48% in 1961.

According to experts, population growth has nothing to do with religious faith. Data collected since independence clearly show that a decline in population growth is directly proportional to the economic and social empowerment of a community. “In the 1961 census, the district which recorded the lowest population growth was Pathanamthitta (Kerala). It was the place where wealthy Syrian Christians lived. It is very simple to understand the link between economic and social development and population growth,” said Irudaya Rajan.

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