This report on CSES Working Paper No. 31 was published in Metro Vartha on 13-09-2021
A growing ageing population and other challenges emerging from the demographic transition calls for refining Kerala’s strategies, according to recent study by the Centre for Socio-Economic and Environmental Studies in Kochi.
A growing ageing population and other challenges emerging from the demographic transition calls for refining Kerala’s strategies, according to recent study by the Centre for Socio-Economic and Environmental Studies in Kochi. The study by Baishali Goswami says the strategy adopted by the State now will determine the future course of transition. The focus will have to be on targeting interventions to address the intra-group differentials instead of considering ‘elderly’ as a group and maintaining an age-sex disaggregated database across major killer diseases in the advanced age groups.
Given the early onset, the demographic transition in Kerala is now at the matured stage with fertility below the replacement level, life expectancy at birth above 75 years, decadal growth rate of population at 5 per cent during 2001-2011 with negative growth in two districts. Demographic transition is a smooth change from high mortality and fertility to low mortality and fertility. Demographic transition in Kerala has occupied a unique position in the development literature and debates. Its onset and the unconventional trajectory it has followed over time have challenged the existing theories. Incidentally, it took place in the State under poor economic development and in the absence of much economic growth.
The major point of departure triggering the transition in the State was the prevalence of high social development, especially high rates of female literacy, amidst poor economic indicators. This led to a new model, known as “Kerala model of development” governed by an alternative hypothesis that social development can trigger fertility transition, the study says. Kerala is yet to confirm the onset of advanced stages of mortality and fertility transitions in line with global experiences. Despite a long history of mortality transition coupled with an advanced epidemiological transition, there remains untapped potential in the State to postpone the age-specific mortality from degenerative diseases from the age group of 70+ to the advanced 80+ group.
After the achievement of replacement level as early as in 1988, TFR (total fertility rate) is hovering around 1.7 to 1.9 children per woman showing limited signs of rapid decline in the post-replacement transitional phase. A strong sense of ‘familism’- a family-centred welfare system, a family-based production system and a family-oriented value system may have postponed the onset or full experience of the advanced fertility transition and the associated societal changes, known as second demographic transition.
Following changes in fertility and mortality, Kerala is increasingly becoming an ageing society. There has been a drastic decline in the share of the young workforce (aged 20-34 years) between 1991 and 2011 and the trend will continue in the coming years. Void in young workers facilitated migration of young labourers from other States. The future pace of transition, therefore, will be determined by how fast the in-migrants are integrated with the current level of human development, the study says.