About Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu is one of India’s most progressive states, ranking in the top three on several economic and social indicators. It ranks third in terms of industrial development and fifth in terms of GDP. Tamil Nadu’s indicators are higher compared to other states and the country’s national average in literacy (80 per cent ), the sex ratio (995 females per 1,000 males), (98 per cent) institutional health coverage and in terms of enrolment in primary education (100 per cent). Tamil Nadu is also the most urbanized state with an urban population of 48.45 per cent, according to the 2011 census.

Tamil Nadu has a child population of 6.8 million, with 10 per cent of children in the 0-6 age group. Over the years, the state has adopted progressive child and women policies by introducing path-breaking social policy interventions. Perhaps the best known example is the noon meal scheme introduced in schools in the early 1960s. The scheme was a pioneering effort to protect children from hunger and increase enrolment, thereby stemming drop-out in primary schools.

Despite Tamil Nadu’s high standing on many development parameters, many challenges remain. Caste and gender-related poverty issues are prominent and these have a direct impact on the vulnerability of children. Within Tamil Nadu, regional and social disparities pose a great problem for children in some regions and in socially excluded communities such as scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other highly disadvantaged communities.

UNICEF started work in Tamil Nadu four decades ago. Over this period, it has collaborated with the Government of Tamil Nadu and civil society organizations, academic institutions and the media to actively pursue central issues of child survival, growth and development and child protection.

Critical areas of intervention in the state are: maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, child nutrition, education, water, sanitation and hygiene and child protection. UNICEF collaborates with relevant departments of the State Government, State Planning Commission and State Commission for Protection of Child Rights in these interventions.


  • More than 30 per cent of children in Tamil Nadu aged under 5 years are underweight, raising serious concerns about their healthy growth and development. More than 30 per cent of adolescent girls (15–19 years) and half of pregnant women (15-19 years) are anaemic. Only 52 per cent of children are exclusively breastfed for six months.
  • The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in Tamil Nadu is 22 deaths per 1000 live births. Although this is lower than the national average, almost three quarters of infant deaths in the state occur within 28 days of birth and 77 per cent of neonatal deaths occur within the first seven days of life (Early Neonatal Mortality).
  • The state reports a child sex ratio (0-6 age group) of 943 females to 1000 males, which is lower than the State’s sex ratio of 996 to 1000. The child sex ratio for rural Tamil Nadu is further lower than the State ratio at 943 to 1000. According to the 2011 census, there are seven districts where the child sex ratio is much below the state average – Cuddalore (896), Ariyalur (897), Perambalur (913), Dharmapuri (913), Namakkal (914), Krishnagiri (926), and Salem (916).
  • According the 2011 census, 1.4 per cent of children in Tamil Nadu aged under 14 years work as child labourers. The constant challenge in child protection is the huge inflow of migrants and their children working in labour intensive sectors such as construction, brick kilns and cotton seed production.
  • Child sexual abuse and violence against children are serious concerns in Tamil Nadu. The National Crime Records Bureau reported that child rape cases increased from 292 in 2012 to 419 in 2013.
  • While the state has reached a commendable 100 per cent enrolment rate at primary school level, quality and equity in education remain a concern. Specifically, the transition from elementary to secondary and higher secondary education need special attention.
  • More than 75 per cent of rural households do not have toilets, while about 25 per cent of the urban population does not have access to toilets. Where toilets are constructed, only one third of family members use them.



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