This past July 11 marked the World Population Day, observed every year seeking to raise awareness on global population issues. India is still the second largest country in the world in terms of population, but is predicted to become number one by 2030.
China has been successfully able to tackle its problem of high growth rate in population by mandating a one-child policy among couples. While the growth rate did fall, the challenge could be met only at the expense of having the unhealthy sex ratio of 100 women for 120 men as sex-selective abortions increased many times in the country.
While the two countries are trying their best to sort out their respective problems, Kerala stands apart with a population growth that's expected to start declining in the current decade, holding a favorable sex ratio, and with corresponding problems that are unique to the state.
According to the 2011 census, the population growth rate of Kerala had fallen to 0.48% per year, half way down from 0.9% in 2001. Analysts predict that the next census would reveal a decline in the total population of the state, which currently stands at 3,33,87,677. And yet Kerala was able to achieve the feat without causing any unhealthy impact on its sex ratio, which shows 1084 females per 1000 males in the state.
As the World Population Day passes by, the state's concern with its population is not with the sex ratio or the literacy rate, which stands at 91%; the concern lies with its ageing population which could make up to 20% of the whole by 2021. The average life span of a Keralite stands at 79 years old, and this average is split heavily towards females; the sex ratio among people over 60 years old stands at a high 1229:1000 as per the 2001 census.
While the state prides itself on its high standard of life, the elderly section of the population has been getting increasingly isolated from mainstream life in the state. One of the huge pitfalls of the nuclear family system, which helped the state curb its population growth, was the absence of a provision to accommodate elders in the family. Moves are currently being made to add more 'age related' topics into school level education, as the need to prepare the future generation to an old age in isolation and gloom seems inevitable.
The unique trend in the population growth rate is affecting the cities as well.
Kochi, the second largest city of Kerala by population, has a GDP growth rate of 8.3%, which makes it one among the fastest growing cities in India. But the population figures for this city reveals a rise of only five thousand people from 5,96,472 to 6,01,574, putting Kochi way behind in the list of growing cities in India.
Trivandrum, the largest city in Kerala going by urban population, witnessed a healthy growth rate of 3.58%, from 7,44,983 2001 to 8,35,228 in 2011, but shows no corresponding growth rates in the GDP sector.
Kerala stands unique in India for issues in population that are different and in some ways contrary to the national level, as they are to much of the third world. The Kerala model development was aimed at the development of the quality of life through better education and skill training, which the state then exported to other nations, primarily to the Gulf regions, to make the state prosper economically and socially.
The better education and experience on a global level gained by the state made it realize the need to restrict the number of children, to lead longer and progressive lives. The net result is the impending decreasing trend in a population that's fast aging and stands in glaring contrast to the prosperous future and a standard of living comparable to the developed countries that was aspired by the state. That completes the paradox resulting from the commendable work on population growth rate achieved by Kerala.