Stagnation in fertility levels in Pakistan

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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The paper highlights major trends in fertility and its proximate determinants and presents the latest Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data, depicting a stall in fertility levels at four children per women. The author tries to assess more precise levels of current fertility as well as the prospects for replacement fertility. It is apparent that rises in the age at marriage of women continues to impact on fertility while the contraceptive prevalence rate has plateaued at the relatively low level of 30 per cent. Induced abortions, estimated at almost a million a year, may be one of the prevailing options for avoiding unwanted pregnancies, eclipsing the role of family planning methods. The key challenge in further reducing fertility is to tackle the obstacles leading to unmet need for family planning services (over 30 per cent in Pakistan). Despite the narrowing gap between rural and urban fertility levels, rural fertility remains high and differentials by education of women show inequities in the fertility decline. Therefore, public policies and social and economic determinants are likely to impact closely on further declines in fertility, from current levels of 4.0 to 2.2 in the coming decades. The question facing Pakistan is whether economic prosperity and current levels of social development will be sufficient to transform the fertility decline of the 1990s into a fertility at replacement level.