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Demographic Profile of India

Study Material > Economics
  • India must reap its demographic dividend by improving the quality of teaching and focusing on skill development.
  • Half of our population is below the age of 25 and in the next 10 years the largest workforce would be in India. This is demographic dividend.
  • Demographic dividend, as defined by the United Nations population fund (UNFPA) means, “the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, mainly when the share of the working-age population(15 to 64) is larger than the non-working age share of the population(14 and younger and 65 and older).” In other words, it is “a boost in economic productivity that occurs when there are growing numbers of people in the workforce relative to the number of dependents”. UNFPA states that, a Country with both increasing numbers of young people and declining fertility has the potential to reap a demographic dividend.
  • Dependency ratio: In economics, geography, demography and sociology the dependency ratio is an age population ratio of those typically not in the labor force (the dependent part ages 0 to 14 and 65 +) and those typically in the labor force (the productive part ages 15 to 64). It is used to measure the pressure on productive population.
  • India comes next only to China as regards to the size of its population, but is seventh in the world as regards to the area. Thus, on 2.4% of world's area and with 1.8% of world's income, India is maintaining 18% of world's population. It clearly indicates that there is excessive burden of population in India.
  • Demography: It is the statistical study of populations, especially human beings. Demography encompasses the study of size, growth, distribution, structure, density, composition of this population and Spatial or temporal variations in them in response to birth, migration, ageing and death.
  • Theory of demographic transition: In the 1940s and 1950s Frank W. Notestein developed a more formal theory of demographic transition. The theory of demographic transition explains the effects of changes in birth rate and death rate on the demographic profile of the population.
  • This theory was based on the data from Western Countries, which experienced a transition in demography from the stage of high birth rates and high mortality to a stage of low birth rates and low mortality. With a consequent declining population. This theory states that every country passed through stages of demographic transition which is accompanied by Industrialization and economic development.
  • Four stages of demographic transition has been developed by different scholars:
    1. First stage – High birth rate and high death rate: In the first stage of population growth, the Birth rates and death rates are both high. Population growth is slow and fluctuating. The economy during this stage is underdeveloped with low level of income.
      • Birth rate is high as a result of:
        1. Lack of family planning.
        2. Traditional religious beliefs.
        3. High infant mortality rate.
        4. Need for workers in agriculture.
        5. Children as economic assets.
        6. Early age of marriage.
        7. Attitude towards children.
      • Death rate is high because of:
        1. High levels of disease.
        2. Famine and epidemics.
        3. Lack of clean water and sanitation.
        4. Lack of healthcare.
        5. Lack of education.
        6. Competition for good food from Predator such as rats.
        7. Ill-nourished diet.
    2. Second stage – Falling death rate and high birth rate: At this stage the death rates start falling rapidly but birth rate remains high. Therefore, population begins to rise rapidly. The second stage is also termed as the stage of “population explosion”. The rapid decline in death rate occurs due to improved economic development that result in the availability of:-
      1. Improved Health Care (availability of life saving vaccine).
      2. Improved hygiene (safe drinking water).
      3. Improved sanitation.
      4. Greater awareness (about health and hygiene).
      5. Improved food production and storage.
      6. Improved transport of food.
      7. Decreased infant mortality rates.
    3. Third stage – Low birth rate and low death rate: During this stage, the economic development process transforms the country from agrarian to industrialized economy accompanied by the fast urbanization. This stage is characterized by decline in birth rate, low death rate and low population growth (growth rate of population declines). Birth rate starts to fall; death rate continues to fall. Population continues to rise.Reason are:
      1. Family planning available.
      2. Lower infant mortality rate.
      3. Increased mechanization reduces need for workers.
      4. Changing status of women.
      5. Problems of urbanization such as housing problem, increased cost of living etc. compel people to follow small family norms.
    4. Fourth stage – stage of low birth rate and low death rate: In the fourth Stage of demographic transition, a low birth rate and low death rate lead to a stationary or declining population. It is called a stage of stationary population. Birth and death rates both are low. Population is steady or declining as in many Western European Nations at present.


  • Most of the developed countries of the world such as United States and European countries have passed through first three stages, and are now in stage four.
  • Other regions are experiencing other stages, such a Sub-Saharan Africa, which is experiencing rapid growth and high death rate, is in stage one or two.
  • Latin America is mostly in stage 3, with dropping birth rates, but having a relatively young population. The term population explosion means the Rapid increase in population which outstripped the growth of natural income and retards the growth in per capita income. It hampers the Savings and investments.

Demographic transition

  • It refers to the transition from high birth and death rates to lower birth and death rates as a country or region develops from a pre industrial to and industrialized economic system.
  • During the transition population growth and changes in the age structure of the population are inevitable.
  • In India, the demographic transition has been relative slow, but steady. As a result, the country was able to avoid adverse effects of too rapid changes in the number and age structure of the population on social and economic development.

Optimum theory of population

  • The concept of optimum population has been defined differently by different scholars. According to Dalton, “optimum population is that which gives the maximum income per head”. If the population exceeds the optimum level, there is the problem of overpopulation. Graphically it is illustrated below:


Demographic dividend

  • As defined by the United Nations population fund (UNFPA) “The economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, mainly when the share of the working age population (15-64) is larger than the non working age share of the population (14 and younger, and 65 and older).
  • In other words, “it is a boost in economic productivity that occurs when there are growing numbers of people in the workforce relative to the number of dependents”. UNFPA stated that, “A country with both increasing numbers of young people and declining fertility has the potential to reap a demographic dividend.
  • Due to the dividend between young and old, many argue that there is a great potential for economic gains, which has been termed the “demographic gift”. In order for economic growth to occur the younger population must have access to quality education, adequate nutrition and health.

Demographic gap

  • Demographic gap is the difference between birth rate and death rate that develops when a country undergoes demographic transition.
  • In a demographic cycle, as the country develops and the living conditions improve, there is first a decrease in the death rate in the population.
  • But the birth rate continues to remain at a high level.
  • This results in a demographic gap and a resultant increase in the total size of population.
  • The demographic gap is maintained till the birth rate and death rates become equal and the population size becomes stable.


Some important definitions

  • Birth rate: It is the total number of live births per 1000 people in a population in a year.
  • Death rates: Total number of deaths per 1000 people in a population in a year.
  • Crude birth rate: The crude birth rate(CBR) is the number of live births occurring among the population of a given geographical area during a given year, per 1,000 mid-year total population of the given geographical area during the same year.
  • Crude death rate: The crude death rate is the number of deaths occurring among the population of a given geographical area during a given year, per 1,000 mid-year total population of the given geographical area during the same year.
  • Rate of Natural Increase (RNI): Crude Birth Rate minus Crude Death Rate is called Rate of natural increase (RNI). The RNI does not take into account the immigration and emigration of people, so it does not show population growth rate. Generally, the developing countries have high RNI while developed countries have low RNI.
  • Population density: Population density refers to the number of people living per square kilometre of land area. Population density is measured by dividing the number of people by area.
  • Physiological density: The Physiological density or real population density is the number of people per unit area of arable land. This measure signifies the feeding potential of the country to its citizen. India's physiological density is much lower compared to many other countries due to the availability of large arable land.
  • index of the level of industrialization: Ratio of urban population to the total population of a country is an index of the level of industrialization of that country. As Industries gather momentum in a country, ratio of urban population goes on increasing. India is an agricultural country, so ratio of urban population is less than the rural population. Himachal Pradesh has the largest proportion of rural population, while Delhi has the highest proportion of urban population.
  • Two main factors for migration of rural population to urban population
    1. Push factor.
    2. Pull factor.
  • Pull factor: Urban societies are more advanced in comparison to rural societies regarding different basic amenities. Rural population attracted towards urban society due to availability of better education, health, employment opportunities. Urban societies excel in recreational infrastructure like availability of Park, malls, amusement park etc. Hence rural population gets attracted towards urban population. Reports of National Sample Survey indicate that rural male migrates towards cities mainly for employment and female mainly due to wedding ties.
  • Push factor: Difficulties faced by rural peoples due to poor or almost no availability of proper facility of basic amenities like health, education, employment, training facilities etc which are more developed in cities hence rural population are compelled to move towards cities. 
  • Demographic dividend: Demographic dividend can only be useful, if it is accompanied by supportive National policies. Diverting young population towards productive, and cultural development are necessary otherwise, higher proportion of young population can increase social unrest, crime, etc.Demographic dividend helps economic growth in three ways
    1. Working population has a higher saving rate, which means higher investment and growth.
    2. Low fertility means females get freedom to work (Lesser burden of taking care of children) which boosts economic production. It also, promotes gender equality.
    3. With lesser children, people spend more on their health, leading to improvement in productivity.
  • Population pyramid:
    1. A population pyramid also called and age pyramid is a tool used in demography to study the changes in population over time.
    2. It is a graphical illustration of the different age groups in a population along with the male and female population. The horizontal axis represents the absolute numbers of population, with one side representing the male population and the other side representing the female population. The vertical axis shows the population by age groups.
    3. There are generally three types of population pyramids created from age-sex distributions expansive, constrictive and stationary.
      1. Expansive: A broad base, indicating a high proportion of children (younger age group) a rapid rate of population growth, and a low proportion of older people. Each younger age group is larger than the group just old to it. It has concave sides, which means a higher death rate. Normally, the “expansive” age distribution is seen frequently in developing countries, such as African countries.
      2. Stationary population: The size of lower and middle age groups is almost the same, which represents a stable population. Convex side mean that death rate is low and life expectancy is high. The stage at the middle, where the size is much larger than the older age group, represents the ‘baby boomer stage’
      3. Constrictive population: Here, the base is narrower than the older age groups, which represents low birth rates and negative population growth. Again, the sides are convex, means low death rates and high life expectancy.
  • Life expectancy:
    1. It is the average life of the people of a country. There are great variations in life expectancy between different parts of the world, mostly caused by differences in public health, medical care and diet.
    2. In India average life expectancy which used to be around 42 in 1960, steadily climbed to around 48 in 1980, 58.5 in 1990 and around 62 in 2000.
    3. Experts attribute this jump to better immunization and nutrition, coupled with prevention and treatment of infectious disease.
    4. Life expectancy of India is much lower when compared with developed countries. For instance, in Australia is 79 years, in Japan 82 years, in England 77 years, in America 78 years, in Sweden and in Canada it is 80 years.
  • Sex ratio: 
    1. Sex ratio is used to describe the number of females per 1000 of males.
    2. In the human species the ratio between males and females at birth is slightly biased towards the male sex. The natural “sex ratio at birth” is often considered to be around 105. This means that at birth on average, there are 105 males for every 100 females.
    3. Nature provides that the number of newborn males slightly outnumber newborn females because as they grow up, men are at a higher risk of dying than women not only due to sex differential in natural death rates, but also due to higher risk from external causes (accidents, injuries, violence, war, casualties etc). Thus, the sex ratio of total population is expected to equalize.
  • Some important facts according to census 2011:
    1. Sex ratio of India as per 2011 census is 940, which is improved from 933 in 2001.
    2. Declining trend of child sex ratio continues as child sex ratio was 914 in 2011. In 1981, it was 962, in 1991, it declined to 945, in 2001 to 927 and in 2011 to 914.
    3. In India, Kerala is the only state, where the number of females is more than that of the males which is 1084 females to 1000 males. In Punjab, it is 893 females to 1000 males, in haryana, it is 877 females to 1000 males.
    4. Haryana with a sex ratio of 877 is at the bottom.
    5. Sex ratio in the country improved by 7 points, from 933 in 2001 to 940 in 2011.
    6. Child sex ratio (0-6 age group) has dropped in the country by 13 points between 2001 and 2011 (927 to 914).
  • Literacy:
    1. The working definition of literacy in the Indian census since 1991 is as follows:
    2. Literacy rate: The total percentage of the population of an area at a particular time aged seven years or above who can read and write in any language with understanding.
    3. Crude literacy rate: The total percentage of the people of an area at a particular time who can read and write with understanding, taking the total population of the area (including below seven years of age) as the denominator.

  • According to the census 2011, the rate of literacy in India was 74.04% male rate of literacy was 82.14% and female rate of literacy was 65.46 %.
  • Kerala has highest literacy rate it was 93.91%.
  • The female literacy rate of Kerala was 91.98 %, which is also the highest in India.
  • The lowest female literacy rate was in Rajasthan, it was only 52.66%. In Punjab, the female literacy rate was 71.34%. In Haryana, it was 66.77% and in Himachal Pradesh, it was 76.6%.
  • It may be noted that all the states and union territories have shown increase in literacy rate during 2001 to 2011.
  • Sectors of economy: The modern economy can be divided into three sectors that reflect the economic development of that society.
    1. Primary/agricultural sector: The primary sector involves all those activities where there is the direct use of natural resources as agriculture, forestry, fishing, fuels, metals, minerals, etc. In some economies, mining activities are considered a part of secondary sector and some where mining is the part of the primary sector.
    2. Secondary/manufacturing sector: It involves the transformation of raw materials into goods. Raw materials are procured from primary sector. Ex converting wood into furniture, steel into cars etc.
    3. Service/tertiary sector: It involves the supplying of services to consumers and businesses. This sector provides services to the general population and businesses. Ex banking, transport, tourism, insurance, education etc.

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