Context: India’s focus should be on investment in human capital, on older adults living with dignity, and on healthy population ageing.
- The United Nations’ World Population Prospects (WPP), 2022, forecasts India becoming the most populous country by 2023, surpassing China, with a 140 crore population.
- This is four times the population India had at the time of Independence in 1947 (34 crore).
- Now, at the third stage of the demographic transition, and experiencing a slowing growth rate due to constant low mortality and rapidly declining fertility, India has 17.5% of the world’s population.
- As per the latest WPP, India will reach 150 crore by 2030 and 166 crore by 2050.
- In its 75-year journey since Independence, the country has seen a sea change in its demographic structure.
- In the 1960s, India had a population growth rate of over 2%.
- At the current rate of growth, this is expected to fall to 1% by 2025.
- However, there is a long way to go for the country to achieve stability in population. This is expected to be achieved no later than 2064 and is projected to be at 170 crore (as mentioned in WPP 2022).
- India reached a significant demographic milestone as, for the first time, its total fertility rate (TFR) slipped to two.
- However, even after reaching the replacement level of fertility, the population will continue to grow for three to four decades owing to the population momentum (large cohorts of women in their reproductive age groups).
- Several States have reached a TFR of two except for Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Manipur and Meghalaya.
- All these States face bottlenecks in achieving a low TFR.
- These include high illiteracy levels, rampant child marriage, high levels of under-five mortality rates, a low workforce participation of women, and low contraceptive usage compared to other States.
- A majority of women in these States do not have much of an economic or decisive say in their lives.
- Without ameliorating the status of women in society (quality of life), only lopsided development is achievable.
- A larger population is perceived to mean greater human capital, higher economic growth and improved standards of living.
- In the last seven decades, the share of the working age population has grown from 50% to 65%, resulting in a remarkable decline in the dependency ratio.
- As in the WPP 2022, India will have one of the largest workforces globally, i.e., in the next 25 years, one in five working-age group persons will be living in India.
- This working-age bulge will keep growing till the mid-2050s, and India must make use of it.
There are several obstacles to harnessing this demographic dividend.
- Every other woman in the reproductive age group in India is anaemic, and every third child below five is stunted.
- India stands 101 out of 116 nations in the Global Hunger Index
- India is a global disease burden leader as the share of NCDs has almost doubled since the 1990s, the cause of more than 62% of total deaths.
- India is home to over eight crore people with diabetes.
- Further, more than a quarter of global deaths due to air pollution occur in India alone.
- In contrast, India’s health-care infrastructure is highly inadequate and inefficient.
- India’s public health financing is low, varying between 1% and 1.5% of GDP, which is among the lowest percentages in the world.
- The share of India’s elderly population is now increasing and is expected to be 12% by 2050. After 2050, the elderly population will increase sharply.
- Another demographic concern of independent India is the male-dominant sex ratio. In 1951, the country had a sex ratio of 946 females per 1,000 males.
- In 2011, the sex ratio was 943 females per 1,000 males; by 2022, it is expected to be approximately 950 females per 1,000 males.
- One in three girls missing globally due to sex selection (both pre-and post-natal), is from India — 46 million of the total 142 million missing girls.
Education and Employment
- India’s labour force is constrained by the absence of women from the workforce; only a fourth of women are employed.
- The quality of educational attainments is not up to the mark, and the country’s workforce badly lacks the basic skills required for the modernised job market.
- Having the largest population with one of the world’s lowest employment rates is another enormous hurdle in reaping the ‘demographic dividend’.
The focus of action should be on extensive investment in human capital, on older adults living with dignity, and on healthy population ageing. India should be prepared with suitable infrastructure, conducive social welfare schemes and massive investment in quality education and health. The focus should not be on population control anymore, instead, an augmentation of the quality of life should be the priority.
Source: The Hindu