Daya Varma


The July 29 issue of the journal Science produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science features various aspects of the world population. It contains a chapter “India’s demographic change: opportunities and challenges” by K.S. James of the Population Research Centre, Institute of Social and Economic Change, Bangalore. This article is primarily based on  the five-page article (576-580) by James although it also contains some information from other articles in the same issue of Science.


The present world population is 7 billion; it is expected to reach 9.3 billion in 2050 and 10.1 billion in2100. The Old Age Dependency Ratio would double by 2050 and triple by 2100. The world population almost tripled from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 7.0 billion in 2011 while India’s population increased from approximately 370 million in 1950 to 1.2 billion in 2011; thus India’s population has increased by the same proportion as the world population.


India’s  population  as of March 1, 2011 is 1,210 million (1.2 billion or 121 crore) and accounts for 17% of the world population. China’s current population is 131 million. Although there has been a decline in birth rate, the population has increased by 181 million over the 2001-2011 census period; this is more than the population of Pakistan and only slightly less than that of Brazil.


According to the projection of United Nations Population Division, India’s population will stabilize at 1.72 billion by year 2060. India will overtake China by 2020, which is a decade sooner than the earlier projection.


India’s population registered a steady increase throughout the second half of the 20th century, that is following the independence. This increase was exclusively  due to a decrease in death rate rather than an increase in birth rate. Death rate is expected to overtake birth rate by 2060-2065.


The country experience a negative growth rate between 1911-1921 because of recurrence of plague, cholera and influenza. However with the exception of the Bengal famine of 1940s, India has not faced any serious calamity since 1920.


The life expectancy was 38.7 for males and 37.1 years for females in 1950-1955; it is expected to be 64.4 years for males and 67.6 years for females by 2010-2015. The life expectancy of 70 years will be achieved by approximately 2025.


Infant Mortality Rate is  50 per 1000 live births in India and 22 per 1000 live births in China. At the same time Infant Mortality Rate has declined from 200-225 at the time of independence in 1947.


Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of 2.1 is replacement level such that when it is reached population does not increase. According to the United Nations Population Division (UNPD), India is expected to achieve a TFR of 2.1 by 2040. However, the Population Foundation of India and Population Reference Bureau (PFI-PRB) project TFR to reach 2.1 only by 2050.


A striking characteristic demographic patter in India is huge heterogeneity across regions and states. For example, total fertility rate in 2008 varied from as low as 1.7 in Andhra to 3.9 in Bihar and infant mortality varied from 12 per 1000 live births in Kerala to 70 in Uttar Pradesh. Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have the lowest total fertility rate and infant mortality rate; Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have the highest. This huge demographic disparity across regions can pose social and political challenges. If majority of members of parliament come from the north, as would happen since it is based on population, Indian socio-economic policies may be skewed.

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