Kerala witnesses sharp decline in births during pandemic year

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Mumbai: Health workers take swab samples of passengers at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus Railway Station, amid spike in Covid-19 cases, in Mumbai, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (PTI Photo) (PTI04_14_2021_000153B)

Kerala witnessed a sharp decline in live births in the first nine months of 2021 as the state battled against a raging pandemic amid the new normal of work from home that saw the return of hundreds of thousands of expatriates.

According to data from Kerala’s Chief Registrar of Birth and Deaths, the state has been witnessing a steady decline in birth numbers. However, the decline in 2021 has been the steepest. Kerala recorded 4.80 lakh births during the pre-pandemic year. The number fell to 4.53 lakh in 2020, before plunging to 2.17 lakh as on September 30.

In the first six months of 2021, Kerala registered live births ranging from 27,534 in February to a high of 32,969 in June. However, since then, the births averaged around 10,000, with 12,227 births registered in September.

At this rate, 2021 will witness the biggest on-year decline in Kerala’s birth figures in the last decade, sources told The Indian Express. The decline will have a far-reaching impact on the state’s demography in the coming years, the sources added.

Kerala registered 5.46 lakh live births in 2010 and 5.6 lakh in 2011. Since then, the number has declined steadily, barring a jump between 2016 and 2017.

The state has been registering 100% birth registration in rural and urban areas — 98.96% of these were institutional deliveries. In 2019, Kerala registered 87.03% births within 21 days of birth.

Department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs data show 14.63 lakh expats returned to Kerala, mainly from the Middle East, during the 13 months from May 2020.

During the pandemic’s early days, many experts had suggested that a worldwide baby boom would be on the anvil as people were forced to stay and work from home with limited options to pass time. Historians, however, disagreed with the notion and pointed to the baby bust during the 1918 flu pandemic. During uncertain times, people generally tend to put off having children until normality returns, they said.

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