How can India benefit from the demographic dividend of World Population 2022?
With the world population expected to reach eight billion on November 15 this year, July 11 was honoured internationally as “World Population Day.”
World Population Day this year has the subject “A World of 8 Billion: Towards a Resilient Future for All — Harnessing Opportunities and Ensuring Rights and Choices for All.”
This idea is a bold fantasy that, if realized, would drastically alter Earth’s future. And when it comes to India, it becomes much more challenging to take advantage of chances and guarantee rights and options.
In 1987, when the world’s population crossed the 5-billion threshold, the United Nations designated July 11 as “Five Billion Day.” The UNDP’s Governing Council agreed in 1989 to celebrate July 11 as World Population Day after being encouraged by its success.
As the inaugural World Population Day, July 11, 1990, was commemorated by 90 countries. Let’s consider the worrying effects of the population boom, especially for “Bharat and India,” the two sides of the Indian nation.
THE EXPLODING BOMB, BUT FIRST, THE PLANET EARTH
According to the United Nations Population Prospects, over the previous 35 years—from 1987 to 2022—the world’s population has grown from five billion to eight billion, with the final billion being added in just 11 years (2011–2022). It will reach 9.7 billion in 2050, which is quite near the 10-billion-person threshold.
What is the cause of this population growth?
It can be somewhat blamed on the unsustainable birth rate and partially on the lowering mortality rate, the latter of which is reflected in the rising high levels of life expectancy at birth.
The momentum from past growth contained in the young age structure of the current population will be the main engine of two-thirds of the population increase up to 2050. Even if reproduction declined suddenly to two children per woman in today’s high-fertility nations like India, such an increase would still occur.
However, targeted, purposeful initiatives to solve the population problem might result in a significant slowdown in the rise of the world’s population in the years beyond 2050.
The future of the world and India, in particular, does not look good given the population boom.
Despite industrialized nations in North America, Europe, and even Asia and Oceania (Japan, Australia, and New Zealand) experiencing stable or declining populations, the world’s population is surging. China is the newest country to enter the table of population decline.
In the future decades, emerging countries in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa will account for the majority of the population growth. By 2050, only eight countries—the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and the United Republic of Tanzania—will really see a 50% increase in population, with India leading the way.
Given this, a crucial element of policy creation, implementation, and a manual to assist Indian policymakers at the national level and in the states pursue the path of sustainable development will be an accurate estimation of population trends and reliable forecasts of its future changes, including size and distributions by age, sex, and geographic location.
If not properly directed, India’s rapid population growth will become a significant cause of the rapid decline in the availability of basic amenities for a sustainable life, the reduction in the vital core of the physical and social infrastructure, the rapid worsening of employment gaps, and the rapid growth of negative externalities like resource guzzling, pollution, and global warming, to name a few. The globe as a whole is genuine, but India is more so.
What significant ramifications do the 34th World Population Day’s recent events have for India? What are the advantages and disadvantages, and how may they be exploited for the nation?
Let’s start with a straightforward equation: 3 – 1 = 2. This leads to the sobering reality that India experiences three births every three seconds while also experiencing one death, adding a net of two people to the population each second.
Additionally, India will be home to 18% of the world’s population by 2031, up from 16% in 2011 and probably 20% in 2031, while having just 2% of the world’s landmass.
Such a partial equation and distribution!
And the absurdity is that China will lose its position as the world’s most populous country to India as early as later this year, or worse, somewhere around 2023.
This has severe effects on the nation’s sustainability and viability.
GAP OF YAWNING
The country’s birth and mortality rates gap has grown dramatically in recent decades. The two developed simultaneously until 1950, which led to slower population growth. However, with the substantial population increase, the death rate has been dropping considerably more quickly due to improved living conditions, including access to improved health, nutrition, basic amenities, and education.
The total fertility rate (TFR) dichotomy in 2021, based on data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) and the nation’s decennial census, is another essential variable. According to the Washington-based nonprofit Pew Research Center, India’s average total fertility rate (TFR) fell to 2.2, substantially lower than 1992 (3.4) or 1951 (3.4) and closer to the replacement value of 2.1. (5.9).
The Pew survey discovered the TFR drop to affect all major religious groups, even though in absolute numbers, all major religious organizations continue to observe population growth, except the Parsis, whose population is declining.
The problem is right there.
According to the Pew survey, socioeconomic status is the main factor influencing fertility rates, not religion. Contrary to Tamil Nadu’s and Kerala’s respective TFRs of 1.7 and 1.6, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have abnormally high fertility rates of 3.4 and 2.7 (even Jharkhand and Rajasthan were closer to UP).
Another recent study reveals that, whereas the most wealthy families had TFRs of around 1.5, which are equivalent to those in the USA, the poorest households have TFRs of 3.2.
Additionally, in May 2022, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) revealed that the Hindu community’s TFR had decreased from 3.3 in 1992-93 (NFHS 1) to 1.94 in 2019-21, while the Muslim community’s TFR decreased from 4.4 in 1992-93 to 2.3 in 2019-21. The Christian fertility rate has dropped to 1.88, the Sikh fertility rate has fallen to 1.61, the Jain fertility rate has increased to 1.6, and the Buddhist and neo-Buddhist to 1.3. It is important to remember that India’s TFR has severely decreased by 40% from 3.4 to 2.0 since the start of the National Family Health surveys in 1992–1993—well below the replacement threshold.
The rapidly growing population is the main obstacle to efficiently tackling the fundamental issues of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, improved quality of health, education, resources, and physical infrastructure to make cities, towns, and villages liveable.
WHY THE RISE?
What causes India’s population to increase? Detail is where the devil is at.
According to the United Nations database, India will exceed China in population in 2023 with its existing 1.4 billion people. By 2030 and 2050, it is anticipated to reach 1.5 billion and 1.78 billion, respectively.
And my grim discovery is that by 2022, our population will already have surpassed China’s because: (1) We do not adequately tally our births, deaths, and decadal census. When counting slum inhabitants and the homeless, many are left uncounted.
Two, for the first time in forty years, China’s population will be falling in 2022. It slightly increased by 4,80,000 to reach 1.41260 billion in 2021. According to the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, China’s population will decline to 589 million by 2100. Comparing it to India, The population is expected to reach 1.5 billion by 2030, 1.78 billion by 2047—the hundredth year of Independence—and then likely to decline to 1.1 billion by 2100.
What is fueling this expansion?
First is the TFR distinction between states and religions. The second factor is the contribution of widespread poverty and illiteracy, which accelerates population growth. Women are twice as likely as males to be illiterate. Additionally, having a second kid provides two extra hands to increase the family’s income in poor households. Thirdly, the patriarchal culture requires a son to be the family’s heir. The nation’s family planning policy has been a dismal failure. Finally, the lack of a social security system implies that impoverished families have more children who can better care for their parents as they age.
BAN OR BOON
In 2011, 63 per cent of India’s GDP came from the third of its people that resided in cities and towns. According to a conservative estimate, by 2031, half of Indians who live in cities and towns will contribute 75% of the GDP; by 2047, two-thirds of the population will live in towns and villages and donate 80% of the GDP.
This has been the general pattern as countries expand farther, and cities and towns contribute more and more to GDP. As a result, India will also benefit significantly from the projected rapid urban boom. However, our cities and towns are already on the verge of collapse to fulfil even the most basic demands of the existing population. If corrective actions are not taken quickly, the benefit will soon become a problem and destruction.
THE SUSPICIOUS ROOF
Both in the urban and rural areas of the nation, there is a dire lack of inhabitable homes. To provide housing to everyone by 2022, the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) was introduced on June 25, 2015. According to the most recent union budget, 80 lakh homes would be built in the nation in FY 2023 at a budget of Rs 48,000 crore. By 2022, families residing in kutcha and decaying homes will be able to purchase pucca dwellings equipped with the bare necessities thanks to a sizable credit-linked subsidy program (CLSS).
Although the plan is ambitious, the housing shortage is such a massive issue that it cannot provide for the housing demands of even the current population.
There are more than 70 cities in the nation with a million or more residents, 20 of which have two million or more. A city’s lack of housing is a surefire invitation for ghettoization.
The number of Indians living in slums is uncertain. The minimum and reasonable estimates for the number of people living in slums range from 6.5 crores to 10 crores, depending on whose data one believes. Inhumane informal slums that are unfit for human habitation and are on par with pigsties make up half of these slums; they are uninhabitable and lack basic amenities.
If the nation doesn’t take quick action to alleviate the housing shortage caused by the quickly growing population, a sizable amount of future population growth will be used to further extend these slums. The country urgently requires comprehensive initiatives for in-situ slum development that are best practices for the future. The “Slum Areas (Improvement and Removal) Act, 1956,” whose main emphasis up to this moment has been slum clearance and eradication, must be abandoned.
The number of slum inhabitants may be roughly estimated, but it is more difficult to count the poor and homeless in India than the fish in the Indian Ocean.
“Those who live in the open on highways, sidewalks, in Hume pipes, beneath flyovers and stairs, or in the open in places of worship, mandaps, or railway platforms,” live in the 2011 India Census, sidewalks considered to be homeless. The appeal of this concept is that it may be expanded upon wherever impoverished people are living on the streets.
1.7 million people were homeless in India as per the 2011 census. The percentage of homeless in villages (45%) quickly rises to that in cities (55 per cent).
These people lack fundamental necessities, including a roof over their heads, dignity, and other comforts.
Nobody takes these government data seriously.
Fourteen million people, or at least 1% of the population, are homeless, and the number is rising, making their already precarious existential circumstances worse.
Ironically, India also has the world’s highest population of street children, but neither official statistics nor programs specifically designed to meet their needs are available. Their number is rapidly expanding as well. If things continue now, one can only imagine the worst.
Concerningly, the Bombay Beggary Act, 1959, which is applicable in most states, criminalizes destitution and indiscriminately collects the homeless from the street and puts them in jail for up to 10 years, in some cases 14 years, following a quick mock trial.
The abrupt arrival of Covid-19 completely dismantled India’s public health system. Additionally, it revealed the armour’s weakness. We spend less on health as a country than Bangladesh and Nepal, at just 1.29 per cent of GDP yearly, so it could not have been otherwise. Families cover the majority of medical expenses. On the other hand, China spends 6.7% of its GDP on health, while the UK spends 10%.
Our health infrastructure lacks the physical and human resources necessary to remain remotely current. While circumstances are somewhat passable in cities, there is minimal infrastructure in rural. Primary healthcare scarcely functions.
According to current data published in Parliament (Rajya Sabha, April 5, 2022), there are 1:834 physicians for every 1,000 people.
It adds 565,000 Ayurvedic, Unani, Siddha, and homoeopathic physicians and estimates that 80,000 certified allopathic doctors are available. More concerning is the situation with hospital beds per 10,000 people; the Human Development Index (2020) places India in the lowest position out of 167 nations, with five beds per 1000 people.
As a committee member to hire sweepers in the Mughalsarai division of the Indian Railways around 1991, I was appalled. Most applicants had graduate or postgraduate degrees, and two also held doctorates. We were forced to put candidates through a trade exam that involved cleaning human excreta off the rail lines to finish the selection process.
Presently, a government office peon’s typical beginning gross income is on par with or more than that of an engineering student at one of India’s renowned IT universities.
The topic of what’s wrong with the educational system and how quickly the population will age out requires a book on its own. As I explain below, the giant Indian demographic dividend confronts an existential problem of becoming an unmitigated catastrophe.
The demographic dividend is meant to lift India’s GDP to that of wealthy nations. However, how we treat this dividend today will determine whether it is a blessing or the worst kind of a curse.
Describe the demographic dividend.
The demographic dividend of a nation is simply a few-decade period in which its birth rates decline, causing its workforce to increase more quickly than its population. The economy expands faster than in the past as these people join the labour market, find employment, and earn and spend money. According to estimates, only 7 million of the 20 to 25 million Indians who enter the workforce each year have a guaranteed position. The country now has a youth unemployment rate of above 15%, and the highest rate in the world of 33% of young people who are neither working nor in school or training.
Humanity can live without bijli and makan but not paani, according to the trinity of “bijli, paani, and makan.”
It is frequently believed that the Indus Valley ran out of water before it vanished.
Niti Aayog’s 2018 study made a startling prediction: 60% of Indians are currently experiencing a severe water shortage. India is the world’s most excellent extractor and polluter of groundwater, aside from the widespread waste and pollution of surface water.
Day zero, when cities and towns will run out of water, is rapidly approaching. Agriculture is the main water guzzler, not even industrial or human drinking water requirements.
The absurdity is that India only has 4% of the world’s freshwater supply, which is insufficient to meet the demands of the world’s 18% population.
What will happen when the population reaches the expected level if this is the current demographic issue?
Many affordable, efficient solutions are accessible on a local and global scale. The ambitious Jal Jeevan Mission of the Prime Minister, which aims to supply tap water to 191 million rural households by the year 2024, is an oasis in the desert and has already succeeded in providing water to 30 million families (more than was achieved after Independence) for a staggering cost of Rs 3.6 lakh crore. However, even the Jal Jeevan Mission can only carry the country so far.
80 MLD of wastewater or sewage arises from every 100 MLD of water utilized. India’s sewage and wastewater systems are woefully insufficient. To sum up, an astounding 80% of the sewage produced in the nation is dumped untreated into rivers, lakes, or groundwater, poisoning 90% of all surface water.
While tier 2 and 3 cities have few sewage systems, major cities do have some, and sewage systems aren’t given much importance in rural India.
It is understandable that each year, one million children under the age of five pass away from insufficient sanitation. Additionally, the nation already loses more than 5% of its GDP yearly.
It is hard to estimate the volume of solid trash India produces daily. Although the rural environment is a mystery, some hints about metropolitan India exist.
According to out-of-date official statistics, metropolitan India now produces 62 million tonnes of MSW yearly. Waste output is expected to reach 165 million tonnes annually in 2030 due to a steady growth rate of 4 per cent.
Most of the garbage produced is dumped in hazardous landfills, which are now located inside the city boundaries, in an unsorted manner. People who live close to the dump Dhapa in certain cities, including Kolkata, face dire conditions that pass away before age 50. In addition, a sizable amount of everyday trash in metropolitan India is deposited in the sewage system or left on the streets, clogging the drainage.
What will happen if India’s population declines or stagnates rather than expanding? Even then, per capita waste would rise due to economic growth and lifestyle changes; this has already happened in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, and Kolkata.
Toxic dumps in urban India are already like active volcanoes. If we don’t change our habits, tomorrow will be far worse. Cities and towns cannot support the current level of trash production; if they continue accumulating rubbish, they will collapse. The only answer is a rapid shift to a circular economy where waste output is significantly decreased. Manali, a ward in Chennai, is the one that has done it. It was the first ward in Chennai to have “zero garbage” in 2019. Its roads are clean, and homes have cut garbage in half. Even today, it sends only 10% of its waste to landfills. The Manali model can be adjusted.
By 2030, half of India’s 1.5 billion population would reside in cities and towns, contributing roughly 75% of the country’s GDP.
By 2047, it will have increased significantly. Cities in India already experience substantial transportation constraints that significantly impede the flow of people and goods. The future of urban mobility must be rewritten to shift away from motorization and toward a zero-pollution hierarchy of urban transport that gives parking, cycling, and walking full attention if towns and cities are to function as engines of growth.
Sustainability is the only workable answer. Urban India will undoubtedly perish if the alternative is chosen.
As the world’s most populated nation, India must swiftly leave the unsustainable intercity mobility (both people and freight) track it is currently travelling—rapid road, highway, and airport construction—and turn to the train, which is the most environmentally benign method of transportation.
China has built the most excellent high-speed network in the last 20 years, whereas India only talks about one high-speed passenger route between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. The best option is to run trains at high speeds for people and semi-high speeds for freight, turning first-mile freight aggregators and last-mile freight disaggregation along the route. By 2070, you can also achieve “net zero” by following this path.
India is the pollution capital of the world, home to 15 of the top 20 most polluted cities worldwide. The severe effects on the population’s well-being and the country’s economy are known, as are its causes. If India is already overpopulated, what would happen when more and more Indians begin to pollute more in 2030?
The effects of population expansion need to be harnessed before it’s too late; governments and other essential stakeholders must move toward a well-researched, well-planned, and modularly implementable solution.
The demography of India has already reached a paradoxical level. However, fertility replacement levels are nowhere near being born in the north and east, an ageing population problem is gripping the south, and western India is rapidly catching up to the south.
Due to this, there are now too many young people and seniors concentrated simultaneously in various parts of the country. It is getting late, and different solutions must be developed for various regions of India.