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    Fertility Transition in Sri Lanka: The Determinants and Consequences

    Document prepared for the UNESCAP "Seminar on Fertility Transition in Asia: Opportunities and Challenges", 18-20 December 2006.

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    APTL Abeykoon
    1 Dec 2006 | 19 pages

    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.




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