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  • “Demo” literally means people and “transition” literally means change. Thus, theory of demographic transition explains the change in population structure. According to the theory, there are three stages in demographic transition of any society.

Stage I: High Death Rate and High Birth Rate

  • In this stage, both the death rate and the birth rate are high. Therefore, there is no increase in population. Moreover, the proportion of children is high in the total population.
  • Why death rate is high?
    • Death rate is high due to the lack of medical facilities, low food availability, and low education levels in the society.
  • Why birth rate is high?
    • The birth rate is also high on account of poverty and low status of women besides other factors. The poor consider children an asset because children are made to do work right from their childhood. Moreover, as the chances of survival of children are less, people prefer more children. The low status of women leads to early marriages, lack of say in reproductive decisions, and low participation of women in economic activities which further facilitates repeated pregnancies.
  • Geographical prevalence of Stage I
    • Stage I is usually prevalent in underdeveloped regions. India crossed Stage I in 1921. At present, some nations in Africa are experiencing Stage I of demographic transition.

Stage II: Low Death Rate and High  Birth Rate

  • In this stage, the death rate is low and the birth rate is high. Thus, there is significant increase in population. Moreover, the proportion of youth and children is high in the total population.
  • Why death rate is low?
    • Death rate is low on account of improvement in medical facilities and increase in food availability (on account of improvements in agriculture).
  • Why birth rate is high?
    • Birth rate is still high because people follow large family norms, lack education, and status of women is also low.
    • Birth rate has the tendency to follow death rate. However, death rate reduces mainly on account of physical facilities (such as food and medicine), whereas birth rate reduces on account of social changes such as change in the status of women and preference for small families. Social changes take place after a longer time period. Usually, there is a generation gap between fall in death rate and fall in birth rate.
  • Geographical prevalence of Stage II
    • Stage II is usually prevalent in developing nations. India is passing through Stage II. Rather, India is in the later phase of Stage II. China is believed to have entered Stage III. Stage II is prevalent in most of the Asian and South American nations. These nations are in a position to reap demographic dividend.

Demographic Dividend

  • Demographic dividend refers to a higher ratio of working population in comparison to dependent population in the population structure of the country. The higher ratio of working population facilitates economic growth of the country.
  • Working population generates output and adds to economic growth. On the other hand, the dependent population such as children and old  do not contribute to economic output.
  • At present, the ratio of dependent population to working population (also called dependency ratio) is 0.66.

The dependency ratio is equal to:


Dependent population                Population (0-14) and (60 and above)                   30.76 + 8.94

=                                                                                    =                         = 0.66

Working population                            Working population (15-59)                                       60.3


Age group Percentage (%)
(Census 2011)
0-14 30.76
15-59 60.3
60 and above 8.94
Total 100.00


Dependency Ratio in India
1991 2001 2011
0.79 0.75 0.66
  • The dependency ratio is expected to reduce in the coming years. To harness demographic dividend, certain prerequisites are required to be attained:
  • Health of workers: Workforce with poor health standards cannot effectively contribute to economic growth.
  • Vocational skills: A workforce with low vocational skills contributes to economic growth at a lower level of productivity
  • Availability of employment opportunities: In the absence of employment opportunities, workforce would remain unemployed.
  • It is even said that demographic dividend may turn to demographic terrorism on account of lack of employment opportunities and low sex ratio in India. Male workforce without jobs and wives may indulge into illegal activities and create social unrest.

Stage III: Low Death Rate and Low Birth Rate

  • In this stage, both the death rate and birth rate are low. Thus, there is a stagnant size of population or even reduction in population. Moreover, the proportion of old population is high in the total population on account of high life expectancy.
  • Why death rate is low?
    • Death rate is low on account of improvement in medical facilities, higher standards of education, and increase in food availability (on account of improvements in agriculture).
  • Why birth rate is low?
    • Birth rate is low because people follow small family norms, are educated, and status of women is high.
  • Geographical prevalence of Stage Ill
    • Stage III is prevalent in developed nations such as in Europe, North America, Japan, Russia, and few developing nations such as China.
  • These nations suffer from ageing of population. Aged population is unproductive in economic terms and consequently adds to expenditure of the economy. Some of the developed nations such as Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Sweden are even facing reduction in population.


  • Density of population refers to persons per square kilometre. According to 2011 census, the density of population in India is 382. However, the density of population is not uniformly distributed throughout the country. States such as Bihar, West Bengal, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, etc. have high population density compared to other states.
  • The availability of natural resources coupled with economic development determines the extent to which greater density of population can be supported. For instance, Japan supports a higher standard of giving on account of high level of economic development even with limited natural resources.
  • On the other hand, people in the United States enjoy high standards of living on account of both higher availability of natural resources and higher level of economic development.
  • In India, both the availability of natural resources and the level of economic development are low. As a result, it is difficult for India to support high density of population.


  • The level of urbanization is closely associated with the level of economic development because economic development requires high labour productivity, a feature of industrial and tertiary sectors.
  • Urban Areas
  • According to Census of India 2011, the definition of urban area is as follows;
    • All places with a municipality, corporation, cantonment board, or notified town area committee, etc.
    • All other places that satisfy the following criteria: (i) a minimum population of 5000; (ii) at least 75% of the male, main working population engaged in non-agricultural pursuits; and (iii) a density of population of at least 400 persons per square kilometre.
  • The first category includes all the areas with an urban local body. The first category of urban units is known as “statutory towns”. These towns are notified under law by the concerned state/ union territory government.
  • The second category of towns (as per point 2) is known as “census towns”. These were identified on the basis of Census data.
  • Urban agglomeration: An urban agglomeration is a continuous urban spread constituting a town and its adjoining outgrowths, or two or more physically contiguous towns together with or without outgrowths of such towns. An urban agglomeration must consist of at least a statutory town and its total population (i.e. all the constituents put together) should not be less than 20,000 as per Census.
  • Urban area with a minimum population of 1 lakh is called city. City with a minimum population of 10 lakh is called a metropolitan. A metropolitan with a minimum population of 1 crore or more is called a mega city.


  • Consequence of population growth on environment: Increase in population leads to dependence of the poor section on natural resources. Consequently, there is a very high burden on natural resources, leading to degradation of environment. Degradation of environment leads to fall in the standards of living.
  • Increasing burden of maintaining population: At present, India’s public expenditure on education is 3.7% of GDP. However, it is recommended to increase this expenditure to 6% of GDP. Similarly, public expenditure on health is 0.9%. It is recommended to increase this expenditure to 3% of GDP. A high population demands a high public expenditure to maintain it. Consequently, the use of funds is directed to maintain the population, leading to lack of capital formation.
  • High population creates law-and-order problems: Often, in a highly populated country, it is difficult to look after the welfare of each and every section of it. Consequently, the sections that have been overlooked develop a sense of alienation and engage in insurgency movements against the state. Moreover, the demand of resources by various sections generates conflicts within the population.


  • The National Population Policy (NPP) was adopted in 2000. It has a long-term objective of achieving replacement level of population by 2045. The present fertility rate is 2.3.

Replacement Level Fertility

  • It is the total fertility rate—the average number of children born per woman—at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next, without migration. This rate is roughly 2.1 children per woman for most countries, although it may modestly vary with mortality rates.
  • The NPP lists the following measures to achieve a stable population by 2045:
  • Infant mortality rate (IMR) below 30 per 1000: The IMR in developed nations is 10-15. At present, it is nearly 40 in India.
  • Maternal mortality rate (MMR): aim of 100 per 1 lakh births. At present, MMR is 167.

Universal immunization.

  • Around 80% of deliveries in medical institutions by trained staff.
  • Incentive to those couples who adopt two-child family norm.
  • Strict enforcement of Anti-Child Marriage Act and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act.
  • Education to public regarding disease prevention and control.
  • Raising the marriageable age of girls to 20.

Infant Mortality Rate

  • The infant mortality rate (IMR) is the number of deaths of infants (under 1 year of age) per 1000 live births. The IMR in India was 40 in 2013.

Maternal Mortality Rate

  • The maternal mortality rate (MMR) is the annual number of female deaths per 100,000 live births from any cause related to or aggravated by pregnancy. The MMR in India was 167 in 2013.


  • There are multiple approaches to deal with family planning:
  • Short-term approach or immediate measures such as promotion of contraceptives, sterilization of males and females, etc.
  • Long-term measures or development-related measures such as increase in income level of population, empowerment of women, promotion of health and medical facilities, education, etc.
  • The best approach to family planning is composite use of both short-term and long-term measures.


  • China had a significant growth rate of population of more than 2% per annum during the 1960s and 1970s. At present, the growth rate of populations is less than 0.6% per annum. The credit for population control is given to the strict implementation of one-child norm in China.
  • According to the one-child policy, incentives such as increase in salary, priority in job and housing, preference in educational institutions, etc. were conferred to families adopting the one-child norm. Families violating the one-child norm were taxed heavily.
  • The one-child policy is criticized because of the following factors:
  • It further leads to deterioration of sex ratio especially in those societies that have preference for male child.
  • In a democratic country like India, any important public policy should have the consensus of public. Forcible implementation of population control measures may develop resentment among the population.
  • Experience of Kerala proves that development of society can facilitate attainment of the replicable level of growth in population.


  • The current world populations of 7.3 billion is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100.
  • China and India remain the two most populated countries in the world, each with more than 1 billion people, representing 19% and 18% of the world’s populations, respectively. But by 2022, the population of India is expected to surpass that of China. Populations of India and China were 134 crore and 138 crore (by the end of 2016), respectively.
  • Currently, among the 10 largest countries in the world, one is in Africa (Nigeria), five are in Asia (Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan), two are in Latin America (Brazil and Mexico), one is in Northern America (the United States), and one is in Europe (Russia). Of these, Nigeria’s population. currently the seventh largest in the world, is growing the most rapidly. Consequently, the population of Nigeria is projected to surpass that of the United States by around 2050, at which point it would become the third most populated country in the world. By 2050, six countries are expected to exceed 300 million: China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the United States.



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