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India now has more women than men but sex ratio at birth still low

India’s overall sex ratio — women per thousand men — is now at a level seen in developed countries. For every 1,000 men, India has 1,020 women. If that’s a reason to celebrate, there is a cause for concern, too, since the sex ratio at birth continues to be lower than what is naturally expected. The fifth

(Click here to see chart)

Experts say the decline in sex ratio at birth calls for an urgent need to strengthen pre-conception and prenatal diagnostic technique norms.

So, does a decline in sex ratio at birth signify a worsening of sex ratio going forward?

“Not necessarily,” says Suresh Sharma, head of population research centre at Institute of Economic Growth. “Sex ratio at birth and overall sex ratio differ by virtue of migration streams. It cannot be directly drawn from a declining sex ratio at birth that the overall sex ratio will also remain skewed moving forward.”


Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh and Ladakh witnessed a decline in sex ratios compared to 2015-16, while Lakshadweep saw it improve to 1,187 from 1,022. The sex ratio for Delhi increased 59 in favour of females during this period.

But the headline number does not present a complete picture. The sex ratio at birth for the country was still 929 females per males — an improvement from 919 in 2015-16, but still lower than the natural standard of 952 female births per 1,000 male births.

Analysis indicates that 19 states/UTs had a lower sex ratio than the natural standard, and the sex ratio at birth was more skewed in urban areas than rural centres. Twenty-nine states had a lower sex ratio at birth than the natural standard in urban areas as compared to 21 states that had worse than natural standards in rural areas.

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