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Editorial of the Day (9th Feb): Population and Associated Issues

Context: In the recent interim budget a high-powered committee was announced to extensively consider the challenges arising from rapid population growth and demographic changes.

Demographic Transition of India

  • Declining Birth Rates: There has been a significant decrease in the number of children per woman, contributing to slower population growth.
    • Population growth rates have decelerated since the 1970s, following a period of rapid growth.
  • Declining Fertility Levels: The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has been consistently falling, a trend expected to continue, with projections showing the TFR decreasing to 1.73 by 2031-35 from 2.5 in 2009-11.
  • Growing Working-age Population: India is undergoing a demographic transition characterised by a reducing proportion of children and an increasing proportion of working-age individuals.
  • Increasing Elderly Population: The number of elderly people is rising steadily, indicating a shift towards an older demographic.
  • Reduced Dependency Ratio: With fewer dependents per working adult, there has been a decrease in the dependency ratio, which is favourable for economic growth.
  • Life expectancy: Projections for life expectancy in India also show positive trends, with female and male life expectancies expected to rise.
  • Projected Population Growth: The United Nations projects India’s population to reach 1.46 billion by 2030, accounting for 17% of the global population.

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Challenges In India’s Demographic Landscape

  • Healthcare:
    • Low public spending (1% of GDP)
    • Limited access to quality healthcare, especially in rural areas
    • Nutritional deprivation among children
    • Hunger insecurity affecting physical and cognitive development
  • Education:
    • Nearly 47% of Indian youth are at risk of lacking necessary education and skills for employment by 2030, as per UNICEF.
    • The pandemic forced over 250 million children out of school, severely affecting learning outcomes.
    • Skill gap between education and industry needs
  • Data:
    • Lack of current, reliable data on population
    • Hinders evidence-based policymaking

Suggestive Measures

  • Increase Health Infrastructure Funding: Policies should focus on health promotion and allocate more finances to health infrastructure.
  • Strengthen Primary Healthcare: Initiatives to improve primary healthcare, especially in rural areas, have shown positive results in child and maternal health and life expectancy.
  • Nutrition Programs: Implement nutrition programs targeting vulnerable populations to address hunger insecurity and nutritional deprivation.
  • Invest in Education and Skill Development: Increase investment in nutrition and early childhood education, including incorporating pre-primary education into the Right to Education Act.
  • Modernise Data Infrastructure: Invest in updating data collection methodologies, adopting technology for data processing, and ensuring data security.
  • Quality Assurance in Data: Implement rigorous validation mechanisms, including independent audits and peer reviews, to ensure data reliability and accuracy.
  • Open Data Initiatives: Promote transparency in data sharing to make population data accessible for research and policy formulation.
  • International Collaboration: Engage with global organisations for best practices, technical expertise, and funding in population data management.

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