The demographic transition theory is a generalized description of the changing pattern of mortality, fertility and growth rates as societies move from one demographic regime to another. The term was first coined by the American demographer Frank W. Notestein in the mid-twentieth century, but it has since been elaborated and expanded upon by many others.
The theory suggests that population growth is linked to overall levels of economic development and that every society follows a typical pattern of development-related population growth. There are four stages to the classical demographic transition model:
Stage 1: Pre-transition
The first stage is that of low population growth in a society that is underdeveloped and technologically backward. Growth rates are low because both the death rate and the birth rate are very high, so the difference between the two (or the net growth rate) is low which is characterized by high birth rates, and high fluctuating death rates.
Stage 2: Early transition
During the early stages of the transition, the death rate begins to fall. As birth rates remain high, the population starts to grow rapidly. This ‘population explosion’ happens because death rates are brought down relatively quickly through advanced methods of disease control, public health, and better nutrition. However, it takes longer for society to adjust to change and alter its reproductive behaviour (which evolved during the period of poverty and high death rates) to suit the new situation of relative prosperity and longer life spans. In India too, the demographic transition is not yet complete as the mortality rate has been reduced but the birth rate has not been brought down to the same extent( In fact there exists a demographic divide in India with Southern stages showing advanced stage of demographic transition)
Stage 3: Late Transition
In this stage, the fertility rate declines and tends to equal the death rate. Birth rates begin to fall due to various fertility factors such as access to contraception, increases in wages, urbanization etc. As a result, the rate of population growth decelerates.
Stage 4: Post-transition
Post-transitional societies are characterized by low birth and low death rates. In fact, birth rates may drop to well below replacement levels. So, population growth is negligible, leading to a phenomenon of shrinking population (like in Japan and Germany)
The Trend in Growth of the Indian Population
It is significant that the percentage decadal growth during 2001-11 has registered the sharpest decline since Independence.
It declined from 23.87% for 1981-1991 to 21.54% for the period 1991-2001, a decrease of 2.33 percentage points.
For 2001-2011, this decadal growth has become 17.64%, a further decrease of 3.90 percentage points.
Similarly, the average exponential growth rate for 2001-2011 has declined to 1.64% per annum from 1.97% per annum during 1991-2001.
The average annual exponential growth rate during 1981-1991 was 2.16.
How can we identify the trend?
The growth rate of population in India over the last century has been caused by the annual birth rate, death rate, and migration rate and thereby shows different trends. There are four distinct phases of growth identified within this period:
Phase I: The period from 1901-1921 is referred to as a period of stagnant or stationary phase of growth of India’s population, since in this period growth rate was very low, even recording a negative growth rate during 1911-1921.
Both the birth rate and death rate were high keeping the rate of increase low. Poor health and medical services, illiteracy of people at large and inefficient distribution system of food and other basic necessities were largely responsible for high birth and death rates in this period.
Phase II: The decades 1921-1951 are referred to as the period of steady population growth.
An overall improvement in health and sanitation throughout the country lowered the mortality rate.
At the same time, better transport and communication systems improved distribution systems.
The crude birth rate remained high in this period leading to a higher growth rate than in the previous phase.
This is impressive against the backdrop of the Great Economic Depression, the 1920s and World War II.
Phase III: The decades 1951-1981 are referred to as the period of population explosion in India, which was caused by a rapid fall in the mortality rate but a high fertility rate of the population in the country.
The average annual growth rate was as high as 2.2 per cent. It is in this period, after the Independence, that developmental activities were introduced through a centralised planning process and the economy started showing up ensuring the improvement of the living conditions of people at large.
Consequently, there was a high natural increase and higher growth rate. Besides, increased international migration from neighbouring countries contributed to the high growth rate.
Phase IV: From the post-1981 till the present, the growth rate of the country’s population though remained high, has started slowing down gradually.
A downward trend in the crude birth rate is held responsible for such population growth. This was, in turn, affected by an increase in theme and age at marriage, and improved quality of life particularly the education of females in the country.
The growth rate of the population is, however, still high in the country, and it has been projected by World Development Report that the population of India will touch 1,350 million by 2025.
Trends in demographic transition in India
As per the 2011 census and International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) estimates, Population growth in India has been slowing in recent decades from an annual growth rate of 2.5% during 1971-81 to an estimated 1.3% as of 2011-16. A key driver of this trend has been the steady decline in India’s total fertility rate (TFR) since the mid-1980s.
However, this transition has not been uniform across the states.
Variation among the states: States like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Kerala and Delhi achieved low TFR levels. whereas states like UP, Bihar, MP, and Rajasthan are still experiencing TFR levels way above the replacement level (2.1)
Changing age composition: With low TFR levels and increased longevity, the country is expected to witness a declining share of the young population (<15 years) and increasing share of the elderly population (>60 years) over the next two decades
Variation in age composition: As a result of variation in their TFR levels, southern states will age faster and Northern states like UP, Bihar and MP will have a longer window of demographic dividend.
Policy implications of this trend:
For states with High TFR (>2.1)
- Investing in education. Educated women are health conscious and avoid frequent pregnancies and thus helping in lowering the birth rate.
- Improving health outcomes like reducing IMR, since the poor often are unsure of the survival of all their children beyond infancy, and this is one of the reasons for their propensity to have more children.
- Addressing the unmet need for contraceptives by providing safe, affordable and effective contraceptives.
- Avoid coercive family planning policies like compulsory two-child norms and encourage voluntary and informed choices through appropriate population education.
For states with low TFR (<2.1)
- Expanding mass transportation infrastructure for smoother Inter-state labour migration driven by Variations in the working-age population demands efficient mass transportation
- Strict implementation of 3-language formula for smooth integration of migrant workforce in the destination state
- Removing caps on local quotas for jobs in certain states
- consolidation or merging of primary schools to make them viable keeping in view a declining share of the young population
- Increased expenditure on Geriatric care and increasing retirement age
- Investment in Health, education and skill development in BIMARU states to make sure that demographic dividend doesn’t turn into a demographic disaster.
- Adoption of Artificial intelligence, especially in southern states to overcome the challenge of labour shortage in future.
- Delimitation of constituencies according to the changing demographics
Further, the focus must be on promoting female education and labour force participation to grant women more autonomy over their bodies. Alongside extending women’s access to sexual health information and reproductive health services.
The size, distribution and structure of the population within the country must be viewed in relation to its natural resources and the techniques of production used by its people. The extent to which resources are used and the way in which they are used determine whether an area is under or overpopulated.
A country is said to have an optimum population when the number of people is in balance with the available resources. Optimum conditions can only be maintained if the exploration of new resources or the development of other forms of employment keeps pace with increases in population.