Monday, 26 September 2011

Growing Population in India and Islam: Some Facts


Devendra Kothari
Differential population growth rates and fertility can be major political issue in India. There is a widespread feeling that the main cause of population explosion in India is due to the   higher fertility among Muslims as compared to other religious groups, especially Hindus.  Even some argued that the growing demographic imbalances in India should indeed be matter of serious concern as they seem to have serious repercussions on the very survival of the “Indian civilization”[1]. This post discusses the issue and provides facts/information for rational analysis and conclusions.

India is home to many religions and cultures in the world. Various religions like Hinduism apart from Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism started in India. With 80% of India's population, Hinduism is the most dominant religion in India. Islam is the second most dominant religion in the country with 13% Muslim population. Jain, Sikhs and Christians are also present in the country but in a very small proportions and their share is declining. The Hindu religion is present in almost every nook and corner of the country. On the other hand, the Muslims are mainly concentrated in the States of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra, Kerala, Assam, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

India has the third highest concentration of Muslims worldwide after Indonesia and Pakistan. The Muslim population was 138 million out of a total population of 1028 million in 2001. Percentage wise, Muslims were about 13.4% of the total population, as compared to 80.5% Hindus (including Scheduled Castes and Tribes) and 6.1% other minorities (Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, etc.). Currently, the Muslim population is around 170 million, as per the estimated figure for the year 2011.  The annual growth rate among Muslims has averaged 2.7% between 1961-2001, which is well above the national average population growth of 2.1% and the Hindu growth rate of slightly less than 2%.


A large body of available research has argued that cultural and religious factors caused high fertility among Muslims[2]. But how far it is a valid assumption needs further research. No doubt, Muslims have higher fertility rates than those in other religious groups.  Based on the National Family Health Surveys (NFHS) data, it can be said that rate of Muslim fertility is the highest among all the religious groups in India, as shown in Table 1. The total fertility rate (TFR) is almost half a child higher for Muslims than for Hindus in 2005-06. However, as compared to NFHS-1 (1998-93), the Hindu-Muslim fertility differential declined significantly from 1.11 children per woman in 1992-93 to less than 0.5. It is interesting to note that the Muslims recorded the highest decline in fertility among major religious groups in India, as shown in column 5 of Table 1.  It appears that TFR, or average number of lifetime births per woman, has fallen among Muslims in India since the mid-1990s, following the same trend as many countries with large Muslim populations, with the exception of western Africa (see footnote 2).

                  Table 1 India: Trends in total fertility rate by religion, 1992-2005
Religious group
Total fertility rate (Number of children per woman)
NFHS-1 (1992-93)
NFHS-3 (2005-06)
% change
1
2
4
5
Hindu
3.30
2.65
19.7
Muslim
4.41
3.09
29.9
Christian
2.87
2.35
18.1
Sikh
2.43
1.96
19.3
Jain
2.77
2.02
27.1
Total
3.39
2.68
20.9
Source: National Family Health Survey 1 and 3

Is India going Muslim? Projections for future population growth in India show that by the end of the 21st century India’s total population will stabilize in which the Muslim population would be less than 20% of total, as noted by the  Sachar Committee[3]. Thus the propaganda that the unchecked growth in the Muslim population will result in their overtaking the Hindu population is totally false. I projected the Muslim and Hindu population for the next five decades  based on their actual growth rates during 1971-2001 and came to the same conclusion, as shown in Table 2.  Further, if the rates of decline of fertility we saw from 1992 to 2005 continued for another 13 years then in 2018 the total fertility rate of Muslims and the Hindus would be about the same. As the Muslim population is much younger it would continue to grow more rapidly than the non-Muslim for some time, but eventually the growth rate of both populations would be the same and the Muslim portion of the India’s population would tend to stabilize.
         
                  Table 2 India:  Trends in population by major religions, 2011-61
Year
Per cent of total population

Hindu
Muslim
Others
All religions
1951
85.0
9.9
5.1
100.0
2001
80.5
13.4
6.1
100.0
2011*
79.8
14.2
6.0
100.0
2021*
79.1
15.1
5.8
100.0
2031*
78.4
16.0
5.6
100.0
2041*
77.7
17.0
5.3
100.0
2051*
77.0
18.0
5.0
100.0
2061*
76.3
19.3
4.4
100.0
Source: *Estimated figures are based on actual trends observed during 1971-2001.

Of course, we do not know that the rapidly declining fertility of Muslim women will continue. It would not be surprising if Muslim fertility stabilized at a higher level than non-Muslim fertility in India. As a result, Muslims may maintain a population growth rate somewhat higher than other groups and their percentage of India’s population might slowly grow. It is because the use of modern methods of contraceptive is very low among Muslims as compared to others.  Religious differences in the use of modern contraception, based on the latest NFHS-3 (2005-06) data, clearly indicate the prevalence rate of modern contraception is the highest among Jains (69%) and lowest among Muslims (36%). Around 50% of Hindus are protected by any modern method like sterilization, pill, IUD and Condom (Table 3, column 2), which are available  in the official program.  The prevalence of sterilization does not differ much among most religious groups, except for the fact that it is very low among Muslims (column 3).  The proportion of women and men who have been sterilized is twice as high for Hindus as for Muslims.

Table 3 India: Current use of contraception and unmet need for contraception by religion, 2005-06
Religious  group
% of couples (15-49 yrs) protected by  any modern method
% of couples (15-49 yrs) protected by sterilization
% of couples (15-49 yrs) having unmet need for any modern method
1
2
3
4
Hindu
50
41
12
Muslim
36
21
19
Christian
49
41
12
Sikh
58
54
06
Jain
69
41
07
Total
48
37
13
Source: National Family Health Survey-3 (2005-06), OOPS, Mumbai, 2007.

Unmet need for family planning[4] is an important indicator of assessing the potential demand for family planning services. In spite of poverty and illiteracy, the prevailing unmet need for modern  family planning services is surprising, especially among Muslims.  Table 3 (column 4) indicates that among the religious groups, unmet need is highest among Muslims, who are least likely to have their total demand satisfied in the present situation.

Now question arises as how to forge ahead? The socioeconomic development played a key role in North Africa and Central Asia including Turkey, where fertility started declining even without a very aggressive family planning program.  On the other hand, in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, followed by Bangladesh and then Iran, it was family planning programs that affected fertility (see footnote 2). It appears that the Sachar Committee (see footnote 3) did not give importance to this model in its recommendations to improve the conditions of Muslims in India. 
        
In Bangladesh total fertility rate has gone down to less than 2.5 children (Table 4). In Pakistan, it is four. Pakistan is behind mainly because the contraceptive use rate among eligible couples is around half as it is in Bangladesh, even though living conditions are better in Pakistan - there's a higher level of literacy in Pakistan, women get married later, which result in lower fertility rate or high use of contraceptives - it has not happened mainly because family planning programs have not been effectively implemented.

                  Table 4 Selected countries: Total fertility rate, 2010
Countries
Average number of children per woman  (TFR) 2010
Afghanistan
5.7
Sudan
4.5
Pakistan
4.2
Saudi Arabia
3.8
Egypt
3.0
Bangladesh
2.4
Indonesia
2.4
India
2.6
Turkey
2.1
Iran
1.8
Source: 2010 Population Reference Bureau, Washington DC

Well, the only major religion left out of the demographic transition in India is Islam. And this group could be helped by providing family planning services looking to the needs of clients as happened in Bangladesh. The second issue - that is very important - is that the Indian family planning program has predominately promoted female sterilization. Many Muslim scholars believe that the permanent method of contraception is not permitted in Islam. So India has to diversify its approach to include other modern methods of contraception including injectables with quality in its program.

The next blog discusses the importance of injectable contraceptives in the Indian family planning program.





[1] For details, see: “A note on the growing demographic imbalances in the Indian subcontinent” by Dr. M.D. Srinivas, Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai, 1999.

[2]Yet, it is simplistic to argue that there is a specifically Islamic pattern of fertility due solely to religious influence”, says Mehtab Karim, a senior research adviser and senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and World Affairs. For details, see: article by Eric Zuehlke, Editor at the Population Reference Bureau, Washington DC, 2011. Also see, the report, entitled: “The Future of the Global Muslim Population”, was part of a Pew Forum program analyzing religious change and its impact on societies around the world.

[3] In March 2005, the Government of India appointed a high level committee to prepare a report on the social, economic and educational status of Indian Muslims. The 7-member committee, headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar (retired) submitted its report to the Prime Minister in November 2006. The Sachar Committee’s report is an extremely valuable document on the social, economic and educational status of Indian Muslims.

[4] The standard definition of unmet need depends upon the apparent inconsistency between a woman’s contraceptive behavior and her stated reproductive preferences. The concept of unmet need was highlighted first time in India in a study conducted by the author in Rajasthan in 1988 on behalf of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. Based on the field data, the study revealed that there was sizable number of eligible couples that were not using contraceptive methods but did not want another child.  For details, see Devendra Kothari, Family Planning Programme in Rajasthan: Beyond the Existing Approach, Indian Institute of Health Management Research, Jaipur, 1989.

3 comments:

  1. Veryy nice information about Jain Dharma and Jain Religion. Looking for the same in future...

    Regards,
    Jain Tirth

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good work. Shouldn't you have used the term Muslims rather than Islam in discussing population? Haven't heardd/read term Islam in formal population/demographic studies. can yiu explain. Also role of education/literacy could have explained policy failures and implications. Can education neutralize or nub religious 'fervor' for fertility? Further, residence, nature of employment (formal vs informal sectors) may also throw some light.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good work. Shouldn't you have used the term Muslims rather than Islam in discussing population? Haven't heardd/read term Islam in formal population/demographic studies. can yiu explain. Also role of education/literacy could have explained policy failures and implications. Can education neutralize or nub religious 'fervor' for fertility? Further, residence, nature of employment (formal vs informal sectors) may also throw some light.

    ReplyDelete