Baby monitor: See how family size is shrinking

Updated on Feb 29, 2020 06:06 PM IST

As families get smaller around the world, with the only exception being sub-Saharan Africa, the next big trend is set to be the only child. Take a look at the numbers worldwide and at home

Hindustan Times | By

Around the world...

In 1964 the average woman had just over 5 children. By 2015 she had 2.5.

83 countries, comprising nearly half the world’s population, have fertility rates below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman today.

In the US, in 1976, only 11% of mothers had borne one child at the end of their childbearing years. In 2015, 23% had. Only-child families are now the fastest-growing family unit.

In the UK, 46% of families have only one child. In Canada, 38.6% of families have one child.

Even across the Nordic region, which provides generous maternity and paternity benefits and subsidised childcare, families are shrinking. Iceland’s birth rate has dropped from 2.2 children per woman to 1.7 children, over the past 10 years.

Italy’s birth rate is at a historic low of 1.35. Single-child families make up 30% of the family units in Spain and Portugal. Cultures traditionally known for big families now have fewer children per family too.

Singapore has the world’s lowest fertility rate: 0.83 children per woman. Japan is at 1.42.

China, which imposed a one-child limit on its population from 1979 to 2016, is finding that birth rates remain low even after the policy ended. Its birth rate, 1.5 since the 2000s, showed only a marginal increase to 1.6 last year.

In India

In one generation, we have double number of mothers who reached the end of their childbearing years having borne one child.

Only 24% of Indian women want a second child, according to The National Family Health Survey from 2018. It’s a sharp decline in the response from a decade ago, when 68% of those polled said they were open to having a second baby.

Nine states — Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh — have fertility rates well below the 2.1 replacement rate.

New studies estimate that India’s total fertility rate will stand at 1.8 as early as next year, which means that the population might start to decline by 2040.

Between the 1961 and 1971 censuses, Kerala and Bihar had similar rates of population growth. Today, Bihar, which has the highest proportion of illiterate women at 26.8%, has India’s highest fertility rate: 3.2. Kerala, where 99.3% of women are literate, has among the lowest fertility rates: 1.8.

Falling birth rates relate directly to areas with high levels of education, increased mobility, late marriage, financially independent women and overall prosperity. relate directly to areas with high levels of education, increased mobility, late marriage, financially independent women and overall prosperity.


    Rachel Lopez is a a writer and editor with the Hindustan Times. She has worked with the Times Group, Time Out and Vogue and has a special interest in city history, culture, etymology and internet and society.

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