The demographic variation

Published on - December 01, 2021

Issues related to Population

Source: The Economic Times

Context:

The authors talk about the changing demography of India & its impact.

 

Editorial Insights:

  • Recent results from National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) suggest that India has reached a total fertility rate of 2.0.
  • Though the population will continue to grow due to many young people, the replacement level of fertility is a significant milestone in India’s demographic milestone.
  • The decline in TFR is spread evenly across the country with 29 states & UTs having a TFR of 1.9 or less.
  • All the southern states have a TFR of 1.7-1.8 & even states like UP & Bihar that have not reached the replacement fertility is heading in that direction.

However, this success brings the following challenges:

  • As fertility declines, the proportion of the older population grows & societies face the challenge of supporting an aging population with a shrinking workforce.
  • The challenge is greater for Kerala & Tamil Nadu because it has 12.6% & 10.4 % elder population in 2011, which is projected to increase to 20.9% & 18.2% by 2031.
  • Further, these states are also among the more prosperous states in India whose economic activities are dependent on migrant labor from other states.
  • With the aging states increasingly relying on a workforce from relatively younger states to maintain their economic prosperity, there is a need to change the policy mindset on India’s federalism.
  • Over the past decades, concern with population growth & a desire to not reward non-performing states has shaped inter-state relations.
  • Given sustained fertility decline in all states & the overall attainment of replacement level fertility nationally, it is time to move on from demographic performance-based principles of equity.

 

Way-forward from Chinese experience:

As China’s experience shows, while very low fertility provides a temporary demographic dividend with a reduced number of dependents to workers, the increased burden of caring for the elderly may become overwhelming over the long term.

India is fortunate that its demographic dividend may be smaller but is likely to last for a more extended period due to regional variation in the onset of the fertility decline.

As southern states struggle with the growing burden of supporting the elderly, northern states will supply the workforce needed for economic growth.

The increasing pace of migration may help shore up economic expansion in the south with its shrinking workforce augmented by workers from other states.

However, in the long run, the targeting replacement rate below 1.5 will prove to be a grave mistake for India.