Economic Survey 2019: Planning For Changing Population Dynamics
Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg

Economic Survey 2019: Planning For Changing Population Dynamics

India’s population growth is expected to see a sharp slowdown in the next two decades. Though the fertility rate is declining across the country, the rate of decline has been varied across states, the Economic Survey for 2018-19 said.

Although the country as a whole will enjoy the “demographic dividend” phase, there is a wide variation in the experience of different Indian states, according to the survey tabled by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today. This, the survey said, indicates the need for phased changes in elementary education and health care for the aging.

As per the survey:

  • Annual population growth in India has been declining from 2.5 percent during 1971-81 to an estimated 1.3 percent as of 2011-16.
  • Population in the zero to 19 age bracket has already peaked due to sharp declines in total fertility rates across the country, as per the chapter on India’s demography.
  • India’s working-age population will grow by roughly 9.7 million per year between 2021 to 2031 and 4.2 million per year during 2031-41.
  • The five southern states, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal and Maharashtra now have fertility rates well below the replacement rate.
  • Total fertility rate in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are above the replacement rate but are also experiencing significant declines.
  • As a result, the national fertility rate is expected to be below replacement level by 2021.

The size of working-age population will start to decline in 11 out of the 22 major states during 2031-41, including in the southern states, Punjab, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh. On the other hand, working-age population will continue to rise through 2041 in states lagging in the demographic transition, particularly Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The proportion of elementary school-going children, between five to 14 years of age, has already been declining and will continue to decline through 2041, as per population projections. Overall, the number of school-going children in India will decline by 18.4 percent between 2021 and 2041. States such as Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have more than 40 percent of elementary schools with fewer than 50 students enrolled. Similar trends exist in Chhattisgarh, Assam and Odisha with large number of schools per capita and small school size.

Consequently, the number of schools per capita will rise significantly in India across all major states even if no more schools are added.

With a rise in the number of schools per capita, many states will need to pay greater attention to consolidating or merging schools to make them viable rather than building new ones.
Economic Survey, 2018-19. 

Simultaneously, with the total fertility rate reaching lower levels and longevity continuing to increase, India’s population at the national level and in several states will begin ageing significantly in just a decade from now, the survey notes.

Some states will start transitioning to an ageing society by the 2030s, it said.

A rise in ageing population will sharply reduce the per capita availability of hospital beds in India across all major states. To this end, the survey proposes the need for investments in health care as well as a plan for increasing the retirement age in a phased manner.

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