Debate | Population Growth in Northern States Is a Huge Burden
Rapid urbanisation along with increase in population in Northern states will increase pressure on resources by 2050.
(The Quint Debate: Will the population of India’s EAG states cause a demographic problem for the country by 2050? This is the View. You may read the Counterview by Mayank Mishra here.)
India, with a population of 1.28 billion, is the second most populous country in the world, but not for long. Medium variant projections propose that during 2005-50, India’s population will increase by approximately 45 percent.
The proportion of aged persons (over 65 years old) will increase from 5 percent to 14.5 percent in 2050, which in absolute numbers would imply a change from 57 million to 240 million.
Going by the experience of advanced ageing nations, we can infer that an increasingly ageing population will require us to plan our policies on taxation, social security and healthcare, among other things. Old people cost more.
Another major area of concern is the rapidly increasing population density. This is estimated to go up from 345 per sq km in 2005 to 504 per sq km in 2050. Juxtaposing this with the rising trend of urbanisation indicates a plethora of problems in the years to come.
In 2000, only 28.7 percent or approximately 300 million people lived in urban areas; whereas, it is projected to go up to 40.7 percent of the population or approximately 600 million persons by 2030.
The spike in population at urban centres, particularly the rising economic power of the middle and working classes, will require provisioning for substantially enhanced housing and urban infrastructure such as water, sewage, mass and rapid transit, traffic management and parking, energy, and a much increased consumption of food items such as milk, milk products, processed food and horticultural produce, and their efficient distribution.
Given the present state of housing and infrastructure in our urban cities, providing for a hugely increased urban middle-class cohort will be a massive task that will call for strong and imaginative forward looking policies and purposeful decision-making. Urban development is capital intensive.
Increase in Population in 15-64 Age Group
The 15-64 years age group is projected to increase from 62 percent in 2005 to about 67.3 percent in 2050, which in numbers means 700 million to 1,120 million. India is at present adding 12 million people to the workforce every year.
This accretion to this age group will be rapid till 2030, after which it begins to decline so much so that during 2045-50 there is hardly any increase, signalling a stabilisation of the 15-64 population cohort and subsequent ageing.
This is the natural cycle as the population stabilises. The immediate challenge of the next three decades is to create tens of millions of jobs and then to cope up with a sharper decline in workerforce.
The demographic definition of population stabilisation means constant birth and death rates over a period of time. More specifically, a population will be termed to attain stability if it achieves replacement level of fertility of 2.1.
Recent data on TFR, however, indicates a postponement of this target and the health ministry is now looking at 2060 as a plausible target for population stabilisation. It would be pertinent to mention here that attaining demographic stabilisation comes much after reaching the replacement level fertility.
An exercise carried out by the Technical Committee on Population constituted by the Planning Commission in 1996 reveals that India will reach replacement level fertility by 2026.
Northern States to Increase Population Pressure
These regional disparities manifest themselves in the alarming growth of projected populations in these states. Out of the total addition of 773 million to India’s population during 1991-2050, Uttar Pradesh alone would account for a huge 198 million, which is about a fourth of the entire national population increase.
Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan cause density rates to hike and are hence expected to cause population pressures in major migration destinations, mainly the metropolitan cities and where there is concentration of industry.
Clearly, something needs to be urgently done to check population growth in these states. Given the condition of the governments in these states, this is easier said than done.
Let us take a peek into how the per capita GDP will look in the years to come. In a 2005 paper, Will India Become an Economic Superpower, Does It Matter & What Might Prevent It?, Stephen Howes, Lead Economist (India) at the World Bank, makes per capita income projections to 2050 on the basis of historic growth rates.
This indicates that Bihar, Orissa, UP, MP, and West Bengal will have incomes of less than US$1000 in 2050, which is less than the current per capita GDP and definitely well lower than what will be in 2050.
Not surprisingly these are the states that will see surging populations. This differential income across the states will have serious implications on redistribution policies and, going by present experience, might cause civil unrest as people move from relatively poor to relatively richer states.
In 2020, India will have more than 245 million people in the 15-24 age segment. If savings rates hold and with productive potential at its peak in 2020, we will have a great window of opportunity to make it as a developed and prosperous economy by 2050, if we are able to educate and empower the masses.
Such a demographic constellation will never appear again. If we have to break out of the poverty trap in the next half a century, the time to make major investments in human and economic development is now. But there is no sign of that.
(The author is chairman and founder of Centre for Policy Alternatives. He can be reached @mohanguruswamy . This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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