New Delhi: India’s population is expected to grow by 25%, with reference to 2011, to 1.52 billion by 2036, according to the final report of the technical group on population projections dated July 2020. The group was constituted by the National Commission on Population (NCP) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare with the mandate to provide population projections for the period 2011 to 2036.
India’s population growth rate is expected to decline to its lowest since the Independence in the 2011-2021 decade, with a decadal growth rate of 12.5%. It will decline further to 8.4% in the 2021-2031 decade, as per the report, which The Wire has seen.
According to these projections, India will overtake China as the world’s most populous country around 2031 – almost a decade later than the United Nations projection of 2022.
The projections have been delayed quite significantly. “Ideally, they should have come by 2016. But there were delays in setting up the committee and then more delays at the government’s end even after we submitted the report. We had submitted our report in November 2019,” said a member of the committee wishing to remain anonymous. This was confirmed by two other members as well.
India’s population was 1.21 billion as per the Census of 2011 and the projections now estimate that the population will grow by 311 million by 2036.
Urban population projected to increase sharply
The report projects that as much as 70% of this increase will be in urban areas. India’s urban population will increase from 377 million in 2011 to 594 million in 2036 – a growth of 57%. So, while 31% of Indians were living in urban India in 2011, that will grow to 39% by 2036.
Consequently, the proportion of the rural population will decline from 69% to 61% as the urban population is projected to increase more than twice the projected increase in the rural population.
The state of Delhi, which was 98% urban in 2011, will be 100% urban by 2036. In addition, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, Telangana and Gujarat will all be more than 50% urban, the report predicts.
The states of Himachal Pradesh, Assam and Bihar will continue to be less than 20% urban.
The report does not include projections of the urban population of the seven Northeastern states (excluding Assam), whose total projections have been made as a whole instead of individually. They will see their total population increase by 24% from 14.5 million to 18.09 million.
The most dramatic population shift from rural to urban will happen in Kerala, according to the report, where 92% of the population will be living in urban areas by 2036. The corresponding figure for the period 2011-15 was 52%.
This projected shift in Kerala is because of the methodology that was used for the projections, according to Amitabh Kundu, a member of the technical group and currently a distinguished fellow at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries in New Delhi.
“That’s because the urban growth rates between 2001 and 2011 were used for the projections and Kerala saw a massive reclassification exercise in that period, which led to an increase in the urban population in that decade,” Kundu said.
Between 2001 and 2011, largely due to the reclassification of existing rural areas as urban areas in Kerala, as Kundu mentioned, the total number of census towns and statutory towns increased from 159 to 520. Thus, Kerala went from 26% urban in 2001 to 48% urban in 2011.
So, the growth rate in Kerala’s urban population between 2001 and 2011 – which has been used to project the population growth till 2036 – came on account of a reclassification, which may or may not happen in the subsequent decades.
The role of migration
Migration too will play a role in this demographic change in the country and has been considered as a factor in the projection. The Cohort component model, which has been used by the technical group for the projections, has used fertility, mortality and migration.
The report did not include ‘international migration’, deeming it ‘negligible’. It used interstate migration data of the 2001-2011 decade and assumed the rate of migration to and from states to be constant for the projection period.
In that period, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were the major net out-migration states while Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana and Delhi had positive in-migration.
The net out-migration effect is offset by higher fertility rates and large base populations in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. These two states will account for 34% of the increase in population in the country between 2011 and 2036.
Sharp rise in North India, only marginal in South
Uttar Pradesh, which would already be the eighth-most populous in the world if it were a country, will see its population increase from 199 million in 2011 to 258 million in 2036 – an increase of almost 30%.
Bihar will witness an even more substantial increase in this period, with it population projected to increase by 42% from 104 million in 2011 to 148 million in 2036.
As much as 54% of the growth in population in India between 2011 and 2036 will take place in the five states of UP, Bihar, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.
On the other hand, the five southern states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu will account for only 9% of the growth. Put together, they will see a population increase of 29 million – which is only half the increase that UP alone in north India will see.
Declining fertility rates
UP and Bihar are also the two states with the highest total fertility rates (TFRs) (average number of children born to each woman) in 2011 with 3.5 and 3.7 respectively. This was significantly greater than India’s overall TFR, which was 2.5. States like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh had TFRs below 2.
In the 2011-2036 period, the TFR in India will decline to 1.73 with the assumption that the current pace of decline is maintained. In fact, according to the report, the only Indian state with a TFR higher than 2 by 2035 will be Bihar at 2.38.
The declining fertility rate will mean that the age demographics of India’s population will change with the median age going up from 24.9 in 2011 to 34.5 in 2036. That will mean that the crude death rate (deaths per thousand population) will increase marginally from 7.2 to 7.3.
At the state level, the crude death rate is projected to go up in states like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu due to aging populations. While in states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the crude death rate will decline slightly.
In India, life expectancy at birth is expected to increase from 66 for men and 69 for women in 2011 to 71 and 74 respectively. Kerala is once again likely to be the outperformer here and could become the only Indian state with a life expectancy above 80 for women by 2036 and 74 for men.
The seven Northeastern states will see a life expectancy of 77 for women and 73 for men by 2036.
The sex ratio in the country is expected to improve from 943 in 2011 to 952 by 2036. Three southern states of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are likely to have more women than men by 2036.