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'A Serious Problem': Why Is Sikkim Encouraging People To Have More Children?

The state has proposed a special increment for women employees to encourage them to have more than one child.

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Explainers
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'A Serious Problem': Why Is Sikkim Encouraging People To Have More Children?
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India may be all set to overtake China as the world's most populous nation this year, but in the small Himalayan state of Sikkim, a demographic crisis is brewing – and it has left the state government worried.

With the population of the state's indigenous communities shrinking, the Sikkim government is urging women to have more children.

Sikkim has a population of less than 7 lakh people, according to the 2011 census. It is one among India's smallest states – in terms of area as well as population.

Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang has, therefore, proposed a special increment to women government employees giving birth to a second baby and two increments for a third child, The Times of India reported.

So, how low has Sikkim's fertility rate fallen? And what other measures is the government taking to arrest this decline? The Quint explains.

'A Serious Problem': Why Is Sikkim Encouraging People To Have More Children?

  1. 1. What Do Statistics Say About Declining Fertility Rate?

    As data suggests, there has been an alarming decline in the Sikkim's Total Fertility Rate (TFR), which is the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime.

    It has declined by a staggering 129 percent from 2.75 in 1998-99 to 1.1 in 2019-20 (National Family Health Survey-V).

    India's TFR fell to 2 in the latest assessment period, for 2019-2021, from 3.4 in 1992-93, according to a government report issued in October last year.

    It is estimated that the average must be 2.1 for the population to reproduce itself. Sikkim, with a TFR of 1.1, is at risk of seeing its population shrinking.

    "We need to arrest the declining fertility rate by incentivising local people, including women, to produce more children," the chief minister said at a function in the Jorethang town of south Sikkim on 15 January.

    Expand
  2. 2. Does Education Play Any Role in the Decline?

    A 2022 study titled Decreasing Fertility Trend in Sikkim: An Area of Concern has associated the mother's educational status with less number of children.

    The study found that 52 percent of women with a graduate degree and above had just one child, while 36 percent of women without any degree had three or more children.

    Expand
  3. 3. Why Is the Government Worried?

    Shanker Deo Dhakal, secretary to the chief minister of Sikkim, told The Quint that the government is worried about the declining fertility rate as a declining indigenous population would mean the loss of culture and language of the particular community.

    "We reach up to 12 languages in our schools. A declining population will mean that such a rich culture and diversity will get lost," he added.

    The population of at least two of the state's 12 indigenous communities, Bhutia and Limbu, have been on the decline, Dhakal added, though no data was provided to back this.

    Expand
  4. 4. What Has Government Done To Combat the Problem?

    For starters, in November 2021, Sikkim's Cabinet announced that women in government service would get 365 days of maternity leave, while men could avail 30 days of paternity leave.

    Dhakal added that in April 2022, the government launched the Vatsalya Scheme, under which Rs 3 lakh of financial assistance is provided to couples for In-vitro Fertilization (IVF).

    On Thursday, 19 January, the chief minister announced that the state government would hire women above 40 years of age to take care of the newly born babies of government employees after the completion of their one-year maternity leave.

    "We have the lowest fertility rate in the nation and this is a very serious matter for the Sikkimese," said the chief minister.

    He added that one of the biggest issues faced by parents, particularly working parents, "is to find someone reliable to look after the newly born. We are giving one-year maternity leave for government employees but the question may come what to do after one year."

    "Hence, we have decided to hire childcare assistants that will be deployed to take care of the newly born at their houses for one year once their mothers return to duty after completing the maternity leave," he added.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Do Statistics Say About Declining Fertility Rate?

As data suggests, there has been an alarming decline in the Sikkim's Total Fertility Rate (TFR), which is the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime.

It has declined by a staggering 129 percent from 2.75 in 1998-99 to 1.1 in 2019-20 (National Family Health Survey-V).

India's TFR fell to 2 in the latest assessment period, for 2019-2021, from 3.4 in 1992-93, according to a government report issued in October last year.

It is estimated that the average must be 2.1 for the population to reproduce itself. Sikkim, with a TFR of 1.1, is at risk of seeing its population shrinking.

"We need to arrest the declining fertility rate by incentivising local people, including women, to produce more children," the chief minister said at a function in the Jorethang town of south Sikkim on 15 January.

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Does Education Play Any Role in the Decline?

A 2022 study titled Decreasing Fertility Trend in Sikkim: An Area of Concern has associated the mother's educational status with less number of children.

The study found that 52 percent of women with a graduate degree and above had just one child, while 36 percent of women without any degree had three or more children.

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Why Is the Government Worried?

Shanker Deo Dhakal, secretary to the chief minister of Sikkim, told The Quint that the government is worried about the declining fertility rate as a declining indigenous population would mean the loss of culture and language of the particular community.

"We reach up to 12 languages in our schools. A declining population will mean that such a rich culture and diversity will get lost," he added.

The population of at least two of the state's 12 indigenous communities, Bhutia and Limbu, have been on the decline, Dhakal added, though no data was provided to back this.

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What Has Government Done To Combat the Problem?

For starters, in November 2021, Sikkim's Cabinet announced that women in government service would get 365 days of maternity leave, while men could avail 30 days of paternity leave.

Dhakal added that in April 2022, the government launched the Vatsalya Scheme, under which Rs 3 lakh of financial assistance is provided to couples for In-vitro Fertilization (IVF).

On Thursday, 19 January, the chief minister announced that the state government would hire women above 40 years of age to take care of the newly born babies of government employees after the completion of their one-year maternity leave.

"We have the lowest fertility rate in the nation and this is a very serious matter for the Sikkimese," said the chief minister.

He added that one of the biggest issues faced by parents, particularly working parents, "is to find someone reliable to look after the newly born. We are giving one-year maternity leave for government employees but the question may come what to do after one year."

"Hence, we have decided to hire childcare assistants that will be deployed to take care of the newly born at their houses for one year once their mothers return to duty after completing the maternity leave," he added.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from explainers

Topics:  Explainer   Total Fertility Rate   Sikkim 

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