India registers fewer births in pandemic year: CRS data
New Delhi: The number of births registered in the Civil Registration System (CRS) declined 2.4% on 2020 (over 2019), and the number of deaths increased 6.2%, according to data released by the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) on Tuesday.
Given the trend in births and deaths registered in CRS over the years, the decline in birth rate can be explained by fewer births as people start preferring smaller families, but it can also be explained by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially the hard nationwide lockdown between late March and the end of May 2020, and restrictions on movement and activities that continued for pretty much the rest of that year. These may have made it difficult for people to register births and also, as suggested by anecdotal evidence, resulted in an increase in home deliveries.
And the increase in death rates can be explained by consistent efforts by the government to get all deaths registered, although it can also be explained by more pandemic-related deaths.
India is not the first country to report a fall in births during a pandemic and similar trend was reported in many high-income countries. Most of India’s Covid-19 related fatalities are expected to have taken place in the second wave which peaked on May 9, 2021. India’s official Covid-19 death toll to date is 522,619. This number was 149,036 for 2020.
A total of 24.22 million births and 8.12 million deaths were registered in India in 2020, according to a CRS report released on May 3 by the Office of the Registrar General of India under MHA. CRS is one of the main sources of the most detailed annual birth and deaths statistics in India, as it is based on administrative data generated from compulsory registration of births and deaths.
Of the 24.22 million registered births in 2020, 12.6 million (52%) were of boys and 11.6 million (48%) were of girls. In deaths, 60.2% were of men and 39.8% , of women; 1.8% registered deaths were of infants.
The number of births registered in the 2020 decreased from 24.82 million births in 2019. The number of deaths increased from 7.64 million to 8.12 million.
To be sure, both a fall in birth and rise in death registration is not unprecedented. The number of registered births decreased by 0.43% in 2017 and the number of registered deaths,increased by 1.8% in the same year. In 2018 and 2019, the number of deaths registered increased by 7.5% and 9.9% respectively.
CRS only captures births and deaths which are actually registered within the given year. This means that later registrations can show up in the CRS data for the following year or not show up at all. However, a long term comparison of Sample Registration System (SRS) based birth and death estimates with the CRS numbers shows that the latter’s coverage has been steadily increasing in India.