Economic Survey 2018-19: School going population peaks as fertility rate declines

Nine states, which have fertility rates well below the replacement rate, will have an aged population by 2030s

By Richard Mahapatra
Published: Thursday 04 July 2019
India will have a total fertility rate below the replacement rate in the next two years. Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images Photo: Getty Images

India’s population growth rate will decline faster than assumed, according to the Economic Survey 2018-19. In fact, the fertility rate in many states has reached the replacement rate.

“India is set to witness a sharp slowdown in population growth in the next two decades,” analysed the Economic Survey. "The country will enjoy the demographic dividend phase.”

At the same time, the threat of managing an ageing population is very real now. “Some states will start transitioning to an ageing society by the 2030s,” it highlighted.

Chief Economic Adviser KV Subramanian presented the Economic Survey on July 4, 2019, a day before the Budget for the current fiscal is presented. The survey, as elaborated in its introduction, has not focused on the state of the economy, as it is being done traditionally. Rather, it has dealt with major global challenges and has positioned India in those contexts.

The survey has premised its analysis and suggestions for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious goal to make India a $5 trillion economy by 2025.

Going by various studies analysed in the survey, India’s population in the 0-19 age bracket has “already peaked due to sharp declines in total fertility rates (TFR) across the country”.

Nine states — Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh — have fertility rates well below the replacement rate.

The fertility rates in densely populated states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh is above replacement rate but declining faster than earlier believed.

The survey predicts that India will have a total fertility rate below the replacement rate in the next two years. “Projected values for 2021-41 suggest that TFR at the national level will continue to decline rapidly and will lie below replacement level fertility at 1.8 as early as 2021,” according to the survey .

While the country is already struggling with high unemployment, the changing demography added to the challenge.

India's working-age population will grow by roughly 9.7 million per year during 2021-31 and 4.2 million per year in 2031-41, added the survey.

Another interesting conclusion of the survey’s chapter on population — a rare inclusion in Economic Survey in the recent past — eligible population for India’s elementary schools (school-going children of 5-14 years age group) will decline.

Several state governments have shut down thousands of government schools due to lack of students. The survey prescribed, “Contrary to popular perception, many states need to pay greater attention to consolidating/merging schools to make them viable rather than building new ones.”

India’s population has been growing slower than in 1970s-1980s. It was 2.5 per cent during 1971-81, which has come down to 1.3 per cent as of 2011-16.

States known for high population growth rates — Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana — also witnessed population decline. “Population is now growing below 1 per cent in the southern states as well as West Bengal, Punjab, Maharashtra, Odisha, Assam and Himachal Pradesh,” read the survey.

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