How many Indians? Census suspense beyond population size

What is the news?

Is the country getting older; how is the labour force faring: important questions about demographics await answers.

Why population data of a region is significant?

Population data, especially for districts and blocks, is essential for policymaking. Lawmakers and bureaucrats use population size to determine the share of states and districts in welfare schemes.

Infrastructure, investments in electricity, water, health and education are based on the requirements of a region, which can be accurately estimated only if the latest population of that region is known.

A big factor in deciding the priorities in budgetary spending of central and state governments is the share of rural and urban population.

The official keeper of national population data, the Registrar General of India (RGI), delayed its data collection for Census 2021 due to the difficulties posed by the second wave of Covid-19.

With the absence of critical data on population, what do we know about India’s population and demography today?

India’s population ranges between 1.36 billion and 1.38 billion.

As per Sample Registration System under the RGI, from 2012 to 2018,

The share of the working age population in the country rose from 62.6% to 66%.

The share of children in the working age population has declined.

India’s median age has increased from close to 25 years in 2011, to 29 years in 2020.

As per Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS),

– Unemployment rate for all ages in the country stood at 4.8% in 2019-20.

However, in the 15-29 age group, it stood at a massive 15%.

New entrants to the working age population, faced higher joblessness than experienced adults in the last decade.

Population: People above 60 years of age, seem to have grown fastest in the urbanised and industrialised Delhi, Gujarat, West Bengal and the Northeast.

According to UN projections, India’s population will peak at 1.717 billion in 2069 if demographic parameters remain unchanged from current levels.

Projections show a fast-changing demography of India, with the population bulge moving smoothly through the working age population.

Urbanisation: If we go by the available projections of population, urbanisation has accelerated in some states. Nearly seven in ten residents of Kerala are urban now, and the same goes for Goa.

Source: This post is based on the article “How many Indians? Census suspense beyond population size” published in Business Standard on 29th Dec 2021.

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