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What is demography?

Demography is the study of human populations – their size, composition and distribution across space – and the process through which populations change. Births, deaths and migration are the big influencers of demography, jointly producing population stability or change. Apart from demographic concerns, study of human population also provides age specific data for planning, scientific, technical and commercial purposes.

Demographic cycle

There is a demographic cycle of 5 stages through which a nation passes.

  • First stage (High stationary): This stage is characterized by a high birth rate and high death rate which cancel each other and the population remains stationary. Till 1920, India was in this stage.
  • Second stage (Early expanding): The death rate begins to decline while the birth rate remains unchanged. As the birth rates remain high, the population starts to grow rapidly.
  • Third stage (Late expanding)- Death rate declines still further and birth rate tends to fall, but population tends to grow as birth rate supersedes the death rates, but rates of population growth decelerates.
  • Fourth stage (Low stationary)- This stage is characterized by low birth and low death rate with the result that the population becomes stationary. Most industrialized countries have gone through a demographic transition from a high birth and high death rates to low birth and low death rates.

Fifth stage (Declining): Population begins to decline because birth rate is lower than death rate.

World population trends:

World Population Prospects 2019: Highlights

According to World Population Prospects 2019: Highlights projected by United Nations, the world’s population is expected to increase by 2 billion persons in the next 30 years, from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7 billion in 2050.

Report also pointed out that global population is growing older due to increasing life expectancy and decreasing fertility levels. A small number of countries will account for most of the increase. While some countries continue to grow rapidly, others are seeing their populations decline. Such resulting changes in size, composition and distribution of world’s population would impact the efforts being done for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ensuring that no one is left behind. 

Key findings:

1. The world’s population continues to increase, but growth rates vary greatly across regions:

The world’s population is projected to grow from 7.7 billion in 2019 to 8.5 billion in 2030 (10% increase), and further to 9.7 billion in 2050 (26%).The population of sub-Saharan Africa is projected to double by 2050 (99%) while other regions will see varying rates of increase between 2019 and 2050.

2. Nine countries will make up more than half the projected population growth between now and 2050.

The largest increases in population between 2019 and 2050 will take place in: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt and the United States of America (in descending order of the expected increase). Around 2027, India is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country.

3. In some countries, growth of the working-age population is creating opportunities for economic growth

In most of sub-Saharan Africa, and in parts of Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, recent reductions in fertility have caused the population at working ages (25-64 years) to grow faster than at other ages, creating an opportunity for accelerated economic growth. To benefit from this “demographic dividend”, governments should invest in education and health, especially for young people, and create conditions conducive to sustained economic growth.

4. Rapid population growth presents challenges for sustainable development

Rapid population growth in many poorest countries brings additional challenges in sustainable development such as to eradicate poverty, combat hunger and malnutrition, coverage of education and quality of health care

5.Globally, women are having fewer babies, but fertility rates remain high in some parts of the world

Today, close to half of all people globally live in a country or area where fertility is below 2.1 births per woman over a lifetime. In 2019, fertility remains above this level, on average, in sub-Saharan Africa (4.6), Oceania excluding Australia/New Zealand (3.4), Northern Africa and Western Asia (2.9), and Central and Southern Asia (2.4). The global fertility rate, which fell from 3.2 births per woman in 1990 to 2.5 in 2019, is projected to decline further to 2.2 in 2050.

6. People are living longer, but those in the poorest countries still live 7 years less than the global average.

Life expectancy at birth for the world, which increased from 64.2 years in 1990 to 72.6 years in 2019, is expected to increase further to 77.1 years in 2050. In 2019, life expectancy at birth in the least developed countries is 7.4 years less than the global average, largely because of persistent high child and maternal mortality, as well as violence, conflict and the continuing impact of the HIV epidemic.

7. The world’s population is growing older, with persons over age 65 being the fastest-growing age group.

In 2018, it was first time that persons aged 65 or above outnumbered children under five years of age. The number of persons aged 80 years or over is projected to triple, from 143 million in 2019 to 426 million in 2050. By 2050, one in six people in the world will be over age 65 (16%), up from one in 11 in 2019 (9%).

8. Falling proportions of working-age people are putting pressure on social protection systems.

The potential support ratio(PSR), which compares numbers of working-age people aged 25-64 to those over age 65. This ratio describes the burden placed on working group by the non-working elderly population. PSR is falling around the world. In Japan, this ratio is 1.8, the lowest in the world. Potential impact of low PSR may be seen in many countries in coming decades as they have to build and maintain public systems of health care, pensions and social protection for older persons. By 2050, 48 countries, mostly in Europe, Northern America, and Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, are expected to have potential support ratios below two.

9. A growing number of countries are experiencing a reduction in population size.

Between 2019 and 2050, populations are projected to decrease by one per cent or more in 55 countries or areas, of which 26 may see a reduction of at least ten per cent. In China, for example, the population is projected to decrease by 31.4 million, or 2.2 per cent, between 2019 and 2050.  

10. Migration has become a major component of population change in some countries.

Between 2010 and 2020, In future Europe and Northern America, Northern Africa and Western Asia, and Australia/ New Zealand will be net receivers of international migrants, while other regions will be net senders. Migratory movements are mostly driven by the demand for migrant workers (Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines) or by violence, insecurity and armed conflict (Syria, Venezuela and Myanmar).





Demographic profile of India and health indicators

Demographic profile of India:

Population of India is projected to 1.37 billion in 2019. India is the second most populated country of the world after China (1.43 billion people in 2019). According to world population prospects 2019 by UN, around 2027, India is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country1. India is expected to add nearly 273 million people between 2019 and 2050i.

At the turn of the twentieth century, population of India was only around 238.4 million increased by more than five times in a period of 110 years to reach 1210 million at 2011 and increased by 3.35 times since independence2.

The population of India, at 1210.2 million in census 2011, is almost equal to the combined population of U.S.A., Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan put together (1214.3 million)15.

Uttar Pradesh (200 million) is the most populous State in the country - population is more than the population of Brazil15.

Age and sex composition2:

According to the Census of India 2011, the population of India is 1210,569,573(121crore) comprising of 623,121,843 (62.3 crore) males and 587,447,730(58.7 crore) females. 68.86% Indian lives in rural areas and 31.14% lives in urban areas.

Table-1 Percentage distribution of population3

 Percentage distribution of population by broad age groups as SRS statistical report 2017


Age groups




0-14 years




15-59 years








Age pyramid3,14:

According to SRS reports 2017, there is a decline in the share of population in the age group 0-14 years from 36.3 to 26.5 percent during 1991 to 2017, whereas, the proportion of economically active population (15-59 years) has increased from 57.7 to 65.4 percent during 1991 to 2017. It shows a demographic dividend. Because of better education, health facilities and increase in life expectancy, percentage of elderly population (60+) has gone up from 6.0% in 1991 to 8.2% in 2017.

Demographic dividend3,4:

When working-age population (25 to 64 years) is growing faster than other age groups then these conditions can yield an opportunity for accelerated economic growth known as the “demographic dividend”.

India’s working-age population is now increasing because of rapidly declining birth and death rates. The extent to which India can capitalize on this depends on how well the workers can be employed. This brings in issues of quality of labour force and capacity of the economy to harvest the potential dividend into actual benefit.

To benefit from the demographic dividend, governments should invest in education and health, especially for young people and create conditions conducive to sustained economic growth. 

Sex ratio4,5:

Sex ratio is defined as number of females per 1000 malesSex ratio of India has improved by 10 from 933 in 2001 to 943 in 2011. In rural area sex ratio is 949 and in urban area sex ratio is 929.

Sex ratio at birth can be affected by sex selectivity. Sex ratio at birth for the country has gone down by 2 points to 896 in 2015- 2017 from 898 in 2014-2016. Chhattisgarh has reported the highest sex ratio at birth (961) while Haryana, the lowest (833).

Dependency ratio6,1:

The dependency ratio, which is the ratio of economically active to economically inactive persons, is dependent on age composition.

Over time, the large bulge of population will move from working ages to old ages raising old age dependency. This would matter at the macro-level, but also at the micro or household level. Traditionally, supporting elderly parents has been the responsibility of working adults but low fertility means small families who would find it difficult to support elderly parents. This would then call for developing mechanism to provide old age support. At the national level, this matter does not seem urgent now but some states, the leaders in fertility transition, would face this issue soon. Population ageing will have a profound effect on the potential support ratio, defined here as the number of people of working age (25 to 64 years) per person aged 65 years or over.

Literacy rate7:

The effective literacy rate for India (number of literate persons 7 year and above x100/population aged 7 years and above) has gone up from 64.83 per cent in 2001 to 74.04 per cent in 2011 showing an increase of 9.21 percentage points. This shows that three fourth of the population of 7 years and above is literate in the country.

Ten states and union territories viz., Kerala, Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Tripura, Goa, Daman & Diu, Puducherry, Chandigarh, NCT of Delhi and Andaman & Nicobar Islands have achieved literacy rate of above 85 per cent. Kerala, with 94.0 per cent literacy rate is at the top position among states, while Bihar is at the bottom at 61.8 per cent.

 (Literate: A person aged 7years and above, who can both read and write with understanding in any language is treated as literate.)

Density of population8:

Density of population is defined as the number of persons per square kilometer. It shows the concentration of population in a particular area. The population density of India has gone up to 382 persons per square kilometer in 2011 as compare to 325 persons per square kilometer in 2001.

India accounts for a 2.4 percent of the world surface area of 135.79 million square kms. It means, it sustains 17.5 percent of the world population, whereas USA accounts for 7.2 percent of the surface area with only 4.5 percent of the world population. It is the seventh-largest country by area15.

Amongst states, Bihar has become the most densely populated state with 1102 persons/km2 and Arunachal Pradesh the least densely populated state with 17 persons /km2 in 2011. As of 2020, Population density of India will be 455 people per sq. km8.

Among union territories NCT of Delhi is most densely populated (11297 per sq.km) and least populated is Andaman & Nicobar (46/sq. Km)8.

Health Indicators6      

SRS statistical Report 20176-The Sample Registration System (SRS) is a large-scale demographic survey for providing reliable annual estimates of Infant mortality rate, birth rate, death rate and other fertility & mortality indicators at the national and subnational levels.

Birth Rate6:

Birth rate is a crude measure of fertility of a population and is a determinant of population growth. Birth rate is measured as total births per thousand populations. Birth rate of India has declined from 22.8 in 2008 to 20.2 in 2017. In 2017, the highest birth rate-26.4 has been observed in Bihar, whereas Andaman & Nicobar Islands has the lowest birth rate of 11.4.

The rural-urban differential has also narrowed over these years, however, the birth rate has continued to be higher in rural areas compared to urban areas in the last four decades. In 2017, it varies from 16.8 in urban regions to 21.8 in rural regions.

Crude Death Rate6:

Death rate is defined as the number of deaths per thousand populations in a given region and time period. The death rate of India has declined from 7.4 in 2008 to 6.3 in 2017. It varies from 5.3 in urban areas to 6.9 in rural areas for the year 2017. The death rate for the States/Union Territories ranges from minimum 3.6 in Nagaland to maximum 7.5 in Chhattisgarh for 2017.

Infant Mortality Rate6:

The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) which is a crude indicator of the overall health scenario of a country or a region is defined as the infant deaths (children less than one year) per thousand live births in a given time period and for a given region.

For the year 2017, 33 infant deaths per thousand live births were reported which is one-fourth as compared to 129 infant deaths per thousand live births in 1921. The figure-6 Shows that IMR at all India level has declined from 53 to 33 in last decade. The corresponding decline in rural area is 58 to 37 and for urban areas it is from 36 to 23.

In 2017, the maximum IMR has been reported for Madhya Pradesh (47) and the minimum for Nagaland (7).

Total fertility rate (per woman)5, 12:

Total fertility rate (TFR) refers to total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her life time if she were subject to the prevailing rate of age-specific fertility in the population. Total Fertility Rate (TFR) for the country has come down to 2.2 in 2017 after being stable at 2.3 for the last four years from 2013 to 2016.

During 2017, Bihar has reported the highest TFR (3.2) while Delhi has reported the lowest TFR (1.5). Education has a positive influence on women’s fertility as it is 2.9 in illiterate mothers and 2.1 in literate mothers (SRS 2017).  

TFR of about 2.1 children per woman is called replacement-level fertility (UN, Population Division). This value represents the average number of children a woman would need to have to reproduce herself by bearing a daughter who survives to childbearing age. If replacement level fertility is sustained over a sufficiently long period, each generation will exactly replace itself without any need for the country to balance the population by international migration.

It is noteworthy that the replacement level TFR-2.1, has been attained by Delhi (1.5), West Bengal (1.6), Tamil Nadu (1.6), Andhra Pradesh (1.6), Jammu & Kashmir (1.6), Punjab (1.6), Himachal Pradesh (1.6), Telangana (1.7), Maharashtra (1.7), Kerala (1.7), Karnataka (1.7), Uttarakhand (1.9) and Odisha (1.9). TFR is projected at 2.14 for India during 2020-2025 by UN.

Maternal mortality ratio9:

The Maternal Mortality Ratio(MMR) is derived as the proportion of maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births. MMR of India has declined from 167 in 2011-2013 to 130 in 2014-2016.

The decline has been most significant in Empowered Action Group (EAG States-Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Rajasthan) & Assam from 246 to 188. Among the southern states (Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamilnadu), the decline in MMR is reported from 93 to 77 and in the other states (Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab, West Bengal) from 115 to 93.

Neo-natal mortality rate10:

The first 28 days of life is called the neonatal period. It is the most vulnerable time for a child’s survival. In India the national average of neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births is 23 (SRS 2017), it is more in rural population (27) than in urban areas (14).

Perinatal Mortality Rate10:

Perinatal mortality is defined as the number of stillbirths and deaths in the first week of life per 1,000 total births. In 2017, it ranges from 15 per 1000 births in urban areas to 26 per 1000 births in rural areas, with the national average of 23/1000 births.

Quality skilled care during pregnancy and childbirth are key for the health of the baby and the mother.

(Still birth (WHO)11-a baby born with no signs of life at or after 28 weeks' gestation)

Under-five Mortality Rate (U5MR )10:

In 2017, under five mortality rate for the country has shown a decline of 2 points over 2016 from 37(per 1000 live births) in 2017 against 39 in 2016. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is for all countries aiming reduce under-five mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1000 live births.13

Current Status of key RMNCH+A/RCH Indicators


Current status (SRS 2017)

National health policy 2017 target

SDG 2030 target

Maternal Mortality Ratio


     100 by 2020


Neonatal Mortality Rate


      16 by 2025


Infant mortality Rate


      28 by 2019


Under 5 mortality Rate


       23 by 2025

   < 25


Total Fertility Rate


Replacement level fertility



  1. https://population.un.org/wpp/Publications/Files/WPP2019_Highlights.pdf
  2. http://censusindia.gov.in/2011census/censusinfodashboard/stock/profiles/en/IND_India.pdf
  3. http://www.censusindia.gov.in/vital_statistics/SRS_Report_2017/9.%20Chap_2-Population_Composition-2017.pdf
  4. http://censusindia.gov.in/DigitalLibrary/Demographic-Transition-in-India.pdf
  5. (http://www.censusindia.gov.in/vital_statistics/SRS_Report_2017/4.Executive_Summary_2017.pdf
  6. http://censusindia.gov.in/vital_statistics/SRS_Bulletins/SRS_Bulletin-Rate-2017-_May_2019.pdf
  7. http://censusindia.gov.in/2011-prov-results/data_files/india/Final_PPT_2011_chapter6.pdf
  8.  http://censusindia.gov.in/2011-prov-results/data_files/india/Final_PPT_2011chapter7.pdf
  9. http://www.censusindia.gov.in/vital_statistics/SRS_Bulletins/MMR%20Bulletin-2014-16.pdf
  10. http://www.censusindia.gov.in/vital_statistics/SRS_Report_2017/2.%20Figures%20at_a_glance__2017.pdf
  11. https://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/epidemiology/stillbirth/en/
  12. http://www.searo.who.int/entity/health_situation_trends/data/chi/TFR/en/
  1. https://www.who.int/gho/child_health/mortality/mortality_under_five_text/en/
  2. www.censusindia.gov.in/vital_statistics/SRS_Report_2017/9.%20Chap_2-Population_Composition-2017.pdf
  3. http://censusindia.gov.in/2011-prov-results/data_files/india/Final_PPT_2011_chapter3.pdf

PUBLISHED DATE : Aug 01, 2019


CREATED / VALIDATED BY : Dr. Aruna Rastogi

LAST UPDATED BY : Sep 09, 2019