Changing demography: Is India's baby boom going bust?

Sep 12 2013, 12:08 IST
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Latest census figures show drastic fall in the proportion of children in the country’s population. (AP) Latest census figures show drastic fall in the proportion of children in the country’s population. (AP)
SummaryLatest census figures show drastic fall in the proportion of children in the country's population.

The country’s demography is witnessing some new trends. While the working age group (15-64 years) has predictably seen an increase in the number of youths, the curtains may have begun falling over the baby boom years that fuelled this bulge in the first place. These have been indicated by the latest ‘Single Year Age Data’ released by the Census of India from its 2011 census numbers. Must Read: The Baby Boom Town

While the increase in the proportion of working age group in the country’s population — from 59.61 per cent in 2001 to 63 per cent in 2011 — is obvious, the proportion of children (0-14 years) has declined drastically from 35.35 per cent in 2001 to about 31 per cent in 2011. In other words, those born 15 or more years ago (before 1996) have given rise to the bulge in the working age group, while the proportion of children (born after 1997) in the total population have declined in 2011 as against 2001. In fact, the 2011 census data show a drop in the proportion of population in the lower age groups as compared to 2001 census figures. However, all other age categories have witnessed a jump in their share in the country’s population. (See box: Children’s declining share — a telltale sign)

Laishram Ladu Singh, population expert and Head of the Department of Mathematical Demography & Statistics at Mumbai’s International Institute for Population Sciences, suggests that the decline in proportion of children is a consequence of declining fertility rates. “The fertility rate has declined and hence the children’s population has declined, thus reducing that age group’s share in the total population. At the same time, since earlier fertility rates were higher, the greater number of children born in earlier decades have now accumulated and entered the youth bracket, thus leading to a youth bulge,” Singh adds.

Incidentally, this demographic change corresponds to the period of high economic growth, rising educational levels and increased awareness and access to contraceptives, among other things, that may be contributing to the petering out of the baby boom.

Singh attributes several factors for the decline in fertility rates, including changed economic realities in the rapidly growing economy. “More and more women are working now, and hence the number of children per family has gone down. Also, migration is a key issue. Many couples work in different cities and have

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