Long term implications of low fertility in Kerala
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In recent years, Kerala has made remarkable progress in its demographic transition. The State has achieved below replacement level of fertility two decades ahead of the all-India target year of 2011 and India is likely to achieve the replacement level only by 2021. The TFR declined from a high level of 5.6 in 1951-61 to about 1.7 in 1993, a level which is very much below the replacement level of 2.05. The State’s IMR has touched a low level of 13 in 1993, a level comparable to that of some of the developed countries of the world. The population growth rate has declined to about 1 per cent per annum in 1995 from a high level of 2.3 per cent per year during 1961-71. Thus Kerala’s demographic trends in the first half of the 21st century will be dramatically different from that of the second half of the 20th century. Total population of the State is expected to increase by 170 percent in the second half of the present century (from 11,723,000 in 1951 to 31,553,000 in 2001), the growth (if any) in the next half a century will be very negligible. The crude death rate declined from about 20 to about 6 in the last half a century, but it is likely to increase from 6 to 13 in the next century. The crude birth rate decreased from 40 to about 16 in the last half a century, but it is likely to remain more or less stable in the next half a century. While Kerala experienced varying degrees of net out-migration and net emigration in the last half a century, migration trend in the next half a century is somewhat uncertain. It will depend more on socioeconomic developments than on demographic trends. The socioeconomic implications of the reversal of the demographic trends will be far reaching: (a) To begin with, the pressure on schools and colleges will be a thing of the past, giving ample opportunities for the educational system to concentrate on the quality of education rather than on quantity. (b) This is also true of hospitals and health personnel catering to the health needs of the children. It will be easier to bring about the needed improvement in the quality of their services. (c) In the transitional period, parity between the number of girls and boys in their respective marriage ages will be maintained. But this is a temporary respite. (d) Other things being equal on the economic front, unemployment among the young working age population will be greatly reduced. The educated young workers might be able to pick and choose the job they want. But this is not the case with older workers. The number of older working population would almost double in a short period of 20 years between 2001 and 2021 (e) In the last half a century the major socioeconomic problems were related to the schooling, maintenance of health and nutrition and finding employment for the youngsters. In the next half a century, the major socio-economic problems would be finding gainful employment for the older working age population, maintenance of the health and nutrition of the elderly, and providing them with means of subsistence through social security and pension, etc. JEL Classification : J10, J11, J13, J14 Key words: Kerala, fertility, mortality, migration, projections, aging, labour force, social security, pension, marriage.