April 20, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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INDIA’S FALLING FERTILITY RATE: A WAKE-UP CALL

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THE CONTEXT: India is on the brink of a significant demographic shift, transitioning towards an aging society within the next three decades. The Lancet report predicts a sharp decline in the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) to 1.29 by 2050, indicating a future where one in five Indians will be over 60 years old. This shift echoes global patterns observed in countries like China, where economic growth coincided with a similar demographic transition.

ISSUES:

  • Declining Total Fertility Rate (TFR): India’s TFR is expected to fall to 1.29 by 2050, which is significantly below the replacement rate of 2.1. This decline suggests that the population will not be replacing itself at a sustainable rate, leading to an aging population.
  • Increasing Proportion of Elderly: It is projected that by 2050, one in five persons in India will be above the age of 60. The UN Population Fund’s India Ageing Report also projected that the number of elderly in India will more than double from 149 million in 2022 to 347 million by mid-century.
  • Utilization of Demographic Dividend: India is currently experiencing a demographic dividend, with a large proportion of its population in the working-age group. Policymakers need to maximize this demographic dividend before the share of the working-age population begins to decline in the late 2030s to early 2040s.
  • Skill Development and Job Creation: There is a need for measures to overcome skill deficits and to generate jobs outside of agriculture, particularly in sectors other than the low-paid informal sector.
  • Social Security and Healthcare for the Elderly: As the elderly population grows, there will be a greater need for social security and healthcare provisions. Policymakers will need to ensure that these needs are adequately met.
  • Regional Variations in Aging: There are significant interstate variations in the aging process within India, with parts of south and west India greying faster than those in the north. Policymakers must be prepared to understand and address these regional differences.
  • Global Comparisons: India’s situation when compared with global experiences, particularly China, where the working-age population has already begun to contract, and fertility rates have fallen below the replacement rate, leading to an aging society.

THE WAY FORWARD:

  • Promoting Active Ageing and Workforce Participation: Japan has been at the forefront of promoting active aging, encouraging older adults to remain in the workforce longer and to participate in community activities. This includes flexible working arrangements and retirement policies. Singapore has implemented similar strategies, focusing on re-skilling older workers, and promoting lifelong learning, ensuring that the aging population remains a vital part of the economy.
  • Healthcare and Social Security Provisions: The United States offers Medicare, a comprehensive healthcare program for older adults, ensuring access to medical services without the burden of high costs. Canada’s Canada Health Act provides a blueprint for universal healthcare coverage, including for the elderly, ensuring that healthcare needs are met efficiently and equitably.
  • Addressing Skill Deficits and Knowledge Economy Gaps: Both Germany and Switzerland have successfully implemented dual education systems that blend theoretical learning with practical training, creating a skilled workforce ready to meet industry needs. Adapting such models could help India prepare its youth for future job markets and address skill shortages.
  • Generating Non-Agricultural Employment: Policies in the United States and Canada that foster entrepreneurship and innovation can serve as models for India to generate employment opportunities outside of agriculture, particularly in sectors that can benefit from the experience and wisdom of older adults.
  • Comprehensive Social Security Systems: Sweden and Norway offer extensive social security systems that provide robust support for the elderly, including pensions, healthcare, and long-term care services. These systems ensure that the ageing population lives with dignity and security.
  • Harnessing the Skills of the Elderly: By looking at Japan and Singapore, India can find ways to effectively utilize the skills and experience of its elderly population. These countries have policies that not only encourage older adults to stay in the workforce but also facilitate their participation in volunteer and community activities.

THE CONCLUSION:

To navigate the impending demographic challenges, India must proactively harness its current demographic dividend, focusing on skill development and job creation outside of agriculture. Policymakers are urged to prepare for the aging population by ensuring adequate social security, healthcare, and effective utilization of the elderly’s skills. Addressing these issues promptly will be crucial for India’s sustained growth and societal well-being.

UPSC PAST YEAR QUESTIONS:

Q.1) Demographic Dividend in India will remain only theoretical unless our manpower becomes more educated, aware, skilled, and creative.” What measures have been taken by the government to enhance the capacity of our population to be more productive and employable? 2016

Q.2) Discuss the main objectives of Population Education and point out the measures to achieve them in India in detail. 2021

MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q.1) Examine the implications of India’s demographic transition towards an aging society on its socio-economic fabric. Discuss the measures that can be taken to address the challenges posed by this demographic shift.

SOURCE:

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/express-view-on-indias-falling-fertility-rate-a-wake-up-call-9238994/

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