One Child Not Left Behind

Mar 28th, 2012 | By | Category: Other Resources

by Suzanne York,, September 15, 2011

In a land of 1.2 billion people that is projected to be the world’s most populous nation by 2030, India probably doesn’t come to mind when you hear about a rise in one-child families. But that is actually occurring, according to a study called Middle class dreams: India’s one child families.

Indian tradition and culture have dictated large families for some time, but now economics, especially a rising urban middle class, is altering that norm. Women are delaying marriage and child birth, and a concern for investing in and securing quality education and a coveted white collar job for their off-spring are some of the main reasons for the decline. Though the rate of education has increased, the number of jobs has not. The concern is understandable, given that more than 50% of India’s current population is below the age of 25 and will be looking for good jobs.

The study found that eight percent of women were choosing to have only one child. Nearly a quarter of college-educated women said they would prefer to have a single child. Perhaps most surprising (and encouraging) is the finding that families are stopping at one even when that one child is a girl, despite a past cultural preference for a male child.

India’s health minister recently listed government measures that have contributed to the lowering of the fertility rate, including improving literacy levels, empowerment of women, discouraging adolescent marriages, delaying of the first child birth, and involving village level community health workers in promoting family planning.

The minister has also stated that the government’s focus has been on efforts to create awareness and persuade people to have smaller families for the betterment of the health of the mother, child and entire family. And apparently a little economic growth and desire to join the middle class helps support this.

India’s official Total Fertility Rate stands at 2.6 and has declined 42% from the mid-1960s. Despite that, and despite the growth in one-child families, the country needs to find a way to balance a lot of people with the desire for a better life, a healthy environment, and the wild-card of climate change. India has 2.4% of the globe’s landmass and 17% of the global population (nearly equal to the combined populations of the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Japan, Bangladesh and Pakistan). Let’s hope India achieves that balance.

Suzanne York is a writer/project manager with She also chairs the Sierra Club’s Trade, Human Rights and Environment Team and is also involved with the Club’s Global Population and Environment Program (participating in the Program’s 2009 study tour to India).

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