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    Fertility Transition in Sri Lanka

    The Determinants and Consequences

      Download from UNESCAP (as People's Bank link is non-operational)
    APTL Abeykoon
    1 Dec 2007

    Abstract: Abstract: Fertility levels in Sri Lanka began to decline long before a policy decision to introduce family planning as a government programme was made in 1965. The crude birth rate declined from 36.6 per thousand population in 1960 to 18.4 in 2004. Similarly, the total fertility rate declined from 5.0 children per woman in 1963 to 1.9 in 2000. Many institutional, programme and socio-economic factors were in place during this period which facilitated the social environment in which reduced fertility emerged as an important demographic trend.

    In terms of fertility differentials, a clear inverse relationship is seen between educational level of the woman and fertility. During the past decade, rural fertility has declined at a faster rate and in 2000, it was lower than urban fertility.

    Of the variables, namely proportion married, contraception, postpartum infecundability and induced abortion which largely determined the fertility level during the past decade, the first three factors have contributed nearly one third each to the decline in the total fertility rate.

    The decline in fertility has contributed to changes in the population age structure and as a result has brought about both opportunities and challenges for Sri Lanka. The reduction in the absolute number of births has resulted in the decline in the population aged 0-4 and 5-14 age groups in absolute and relative terms. This would place less pressure on maternal and child health services and on primary school enrolments. The savings resulting from these changes could be effectively utilized for qualitative improvements of these services. Another ‘window of opportunity’ is the large absolute size of young people in the population. This ‘demographic bonus’ needs to be wisely utilized for economic development. It presents an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate economic growth and reduce poverty. Therefore, it is necessary to provide this large cohort of young people the necessary skills which are required for rapid economic development. Further research on future changes in the economic structure and the occupational patterns would be required to plan the development of required manpower skills.

    The current population age structure is ideally suited for rapid economic expansion. This is another ‘window of opportunity’ of falling dependency ratios will stay open only for a few decades. It will eventually be closed by population ageing. For example in Japan this ‘demographic window’ opened in 1955 and closed in 1995. In Sri Lanka it has opened in 2005 and would close in 2035.

    An important challenge the country will have to face in the future is when the present cohort of young people enters the middle ages in 2035 and eventually reaches the older ages. Therefore, it poses a challenge to health educators to provide the necessary information and education on good health habits to young people of today to ensure that the disease burden would be minimized in 2035 when young enters the middle ages.

    With regard to the elderly population, which would accelerate in another three decades, action is needed to plan adequate health and social welfare services for the growing numbers. This situation would be crucial for the elderly women who given their higher life expectancy than men would live longer in widowed status. Such elderly women living in low income households would be among the most deserving for State sponsored health and welfare services.

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    Last updated: 01.06.2007 .