According to a recent research note there is a lack of homogeneity in the demographic transition across states in India.
Regional Disparity in India’s demographic change
The demographic character of India’s population is changing rapidly; however there is huge heterogeneity across regions and states as evident from the following statistics-
- According to Sample Registration Survey (SRS) data, 2016, thenatural rate of growth of population (per thousand people) is lower in all major south Indian states compared to the all-India average of 14. For e.g. In Tamil Nadu, it was 8.7 and in Kerala, 6.8
- Tamil Nadu’s total fertility rate (TFR)was very low at 1.6,Andhra Pradesh and Telangana (1.7), Kerala and Karnataka (1.8) too had low TFR.
- Contrarily, north Indian states recorded very high TFR- Bihar reported the highest at 3.3 followed by Uttar Pradesh (3.1). Madhya Pradesh (2.8) and Rajasthan (2.7)
- Further, according to the 2011 census, southern states have the highest relative share in working-age (21-65 years) and post working-age (66 years and above) population in India. They also have the lowest relative share in pre working-age (up to 20 years) population.
Implications of Demographic disparity for India
- Filling labour deficits: Demographic heterogeneity in India provides a unique opportunity to fill the labour deficit within the country through inter-state migration. Of late, there has been a relatively large inflowof migrants from the northern belt, to the southern regionowing to latter’s higher unskilled wage rates.
- Integration and Social cohesion: Migration from northern and other states to South India has provided the opportunity for integration of culture and social cohesion where the communities have learnt to coexist and adapt to differences.
- Political Representation (Parliament Seats):Since 1976, the number of seatsin Parliament and in the state legislatures havebeen frozen and will continue to be through 2026on the basis of the population enumerated in the1971 Census.Once the freeze is lifted, it is likely to create morepolitical imbalances and conflicts as it could result in a redistribution that goes against the southern states on the grounds that their population share has come down compared to earlier.
- Financial Ramifications (Tax Devolution):15th Finance Commission has recommended theUsage of 2011 population data in the tax distribution formula. With growing demographic disparity, using 2011 data would result in lower resource allocation for southern states and penalize for achieving below replacement level population growth.
- Cultural Differences: Rapid influx of migrants to South India might give rise to cultural conflicts as natives may not be immune to rapid cultural changes such as in language. For example: Bengaluru had seen a vigorous agitation against Hindi signage, driven by the fact that Hindi is the language of migrants to the city.
- Social Unrest: There is possibility of increased conflict and social unrest in south Indian states due to cultural change or erosion in bargaining power of local labour force due to increased influx of migrants from North and East Indian states.
- Prosperity quotient: South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala have been performing well economically and has significantly being able to reap its demographic dividend. However, “prosperity quotient” (total wealth created in a state divided by its total population) of the populated North Indian states such as Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh has lagged behind and has pulled down economic growth.
- Policy Challenges:India’s demographic disparity pose significant policy challenges as government would have to formulate different policies to tackle the North South Divide- Child and Young population in North vs. ageing population of the South.
- Broad-based Criteria for Political Representation: while determining political representation the delimitation commission should incorporate other criteria’s such as economic dimensions so that the South do not lose out their political representation owing to less population growth.
- Broad-based Criteria for Tax Devolution: 2011 population criteria for tax devolution should not undermine the interest of southern states. Other determinants should be included and given due weightage for efficient fiscal transfer to ensure equity among states, balanced regional development, stability and integrity in the federal structure of India
- National and Regional convergence: The GST Council, inter-state councils and zonal councils should be strengthened and could play a significant role to address issues arising out of demographic disparity in India.
- Providing basic amenities to Migrants:The need to ensure basic amenities and social security to the migrant population across India necessitates a comprehensive policy on migration.
- Lessons to be learnt from South: The north Indian states with higher population growth should focus on family planning, bridging gender disparity, skills training, poverty reduction and integrating population policy with economic policy to reap the benefits of its rising youth population.
- Addressing cultural conflicts: To bridge cultural differences, it is important to promote the idea of unity in diversity. The ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ programme which aims to actively enhance interaction between people of diverse cultures living in different States and UTs in India is a right step forward.