Kerala heads for zero population growth

Trends visible from the provisional results of Census 2011 indicate that Kerala is heading towards zero population growth. Demographers expected the fertility to go below the replacement level in the next 20 years. But the census results show that the state may approach the level by 2021.

By T K Devasia (Kerala Buzz)

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Published: Sat 23 Apr 2011, 12:15 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 7:53 PM

Replacement level fertility is the number of children a woman should have to replace herself and her mate for a stable population. This has been fixed at 2.1 globally due to child mortality. The population becomes stable when fertility and mortality remain constant.

Dr K.C. Zachariah, Fellow, Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Trivandrum, said the state’s population was moving below the replacement level due to steady decline in fertility. While two children was the norm for majority of the people in the state earlier, now many are opting for single child.

Zacharia, who has done several studies on the population and the demographic transition, said the compounded average annual growth rate of the state had come down from 0.9 per cent in 2001 to 0.48 per cent in 2011.

The birth rate in the state is only marginally ahead of the death rate now. The current births per 1,000 population are 13 while the deaths are nine. Zacharia feels that it will not take more than 10 years to close this gap.

By the year 2015, the population growth in the state will probably reach stagnation. Beyond that, any rise in the mortality rate will result in a drop in actual population throwing up many challenges, Zacharia said.

The biggest problem the state will face after the demographic transition will be the fall in the working population. Experts say that many sectors in the state may face acute shortage of manpower. The state has already been facing such shortage in agricultural and construction sector now.

Another problem is the rise in the population of the aged. The zero per cent population growth will leave the elderly without anybody to take care of them. Zacharia says that the state may have to come forward to look after them.

This will necessitate more old age homes. But the fall in school going children as a result of the declining fertility may help the government to convert many of the schools into old age homes, says Zacharia.

The state was witnessing sharp deceleration in its population growth rate since 1961-71, when the state pushed the small family norm. As per the 2011 census, the state’s population as on March, 2011 is 33.3 million, with 16 million males and 17 million females.

The population density of the State is about 819 people per square kilometres, three times the national average of 324. The state recorded its slowest decadal increase of 4.8 per cent between 2001 and 2011 as against 17.64 per cent recorded by the country as a whole.

The census has confirmed the state’s leadership in the social development. The state continued to maintain top position in sex ratio and literacy. While the sex ratio has increased from 1058 a decade ago to 1084 now, the literacy rate has remained above 93 per cent, according to census figures.

The literacy rate among females has inched close to that of males. The rate for males is 96 per cent and females 92 per cent. The difference in male and female literacy rate in Kerala is the lowest in the country.

The increase in sex ratio came after the two male bastions of Idukki and Wayanad districts joined the rest of the state by increasing the female population. Wayanad which had 995 females for every 1000 males in 2001 now has 1035 females for every 1000 males.

Similarly Idukki fell into the state pattern by increasing the sex ratio from 993 females for every 1000 in 2001 males to 1006 females for every 1000 males in 2011. Now all the districts in the state have a favourable sex ratio.

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