Women government employees in Sikkim who give birth to two or more children will receive extra salary hikes and paid-for childcare attendants at home, the state has announced as it grapples with the country's lowest fertility rate and the risk of its population shrinking.
Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang has proposed a special salary hike for women who give birth to a second child and two raises for those who give birth to a third child.
"The low fertility rate among the local indigenous population is a matter of serious concern in Sikkim...We must do everything in our hands to reverse the process," Mr Tamang said at an event in Gangtok.
The least populous state in India with just 7 lakh people, Sikkim has been struggling with a low total fertility rate (TFR) for years. According to government records, Sikkim has the lowest TFR in the country, with a figure of 1.1 for 2022. This means that on average, women in Sikkim are not having more than one child. In comparison, the national fertility rate in 2022 was 2.159 births per woman, a NDTV report stated.
The population of at least two of Sikkim's 12 indigenous communities - Bhutia and Limbu - have been declining in recent years, state officials have said.
To address this, the Sikkim government has also announced that it will provide childcare attendants at the homes of women government employees to take care of infants.
Chief Minister Tamang said that women aged 40 years and above will be hired and sent to the homes of the women government employees to take care of the infants for one year. The attendants will be paid ₹ 10,000 per month.
The proposal comes a week after the CM Prem Singh Tamang announced financial and other incentives for women belonging to indigenous communities for producing more children to boost the local population.
The north-eastern state has been shifting towards a policy to encourage families to have three children, making it the first to do so in a country where authorities, in a bid to fight overpopulation, have long pushed parents to stop at two.