Demographic Transition

Demographic Transition: The demographic profile of a country refers to the study of various characteristics of the population over a period of time. In other words, a demographic profile refers to the analysis of various statistics or facts related to the population of a country.

Theory of Demographic Transition

A study of the pattern of the growth rate of population and its characteristics for various countries over several years reveals that over a period of time, as a country develops, its population depicts certain peculiar characteristics at certain intervals of time. Based on this fact the theory of Demographic Transition was developed.

Phases of Demographic Transition

According to this theory, every country passes through the following three phases of demographic transition.

First Phase- This phase is marked by a high birth rate as well as a high death rate. Consequently, the rate of growth of the population is low. In this phase, the country is in the initial phase of development, and features such as massive poverty, low standard, and quality of living, low survival rate are prevalent in the country. Such a state is marked by high infant mortality, low life expectancy, low literacy, etc.

Second Phase- In this phase, the country starts developing at a rapid pace. There are advancements in health and sanitation facilities, improvement in the literacy rate, etc. As a result of these advancements, the death rate starts falling while the birth rate still remains at a high level. Falling death rate coupled with a high birth rate leads to a high rate of population growth.

Third Phase- In the third phase, with further developments in the country both birth rate as well as death rate fall. This results in a low rate of population growth.

Demographic Profile of India During the British Rule

To initiate the analysis of demographic profiles in India, the first official census was conducted in the year 1881. Since then census is conducted every 10 years. It involves a detailed estimation of the population size, along with a complete demographic profile of the country.

During colonial rule, India’s demographic condition depicted a stagnant and backward economy. Pre-colonial India was in the first phase of the demographic transition. Both the birth rate as well as the death rate were as high as 48 per thousand and 40 per thousand, respectively. Due to the high birth rate and high death rate, the population growth rate was stagnant. The infant mortality rate was also very high at 218 per thousand. The Life expectancy was quite low at 32 years.

In addition, the literacy rate was also very low at just16 percent. Also, society suffered from gender bias. Low literacy rate and gender bias indicated the social backwardness of the country. India was featured with massive poverty, low standard of living, and low survival rate in the country. The main reason for such a demographic condition of India was the lack of health care facilities and lack of health awareness.

The first phase of demographic transition continued till the year 1921. The year 1921 is regarded as the defining year or the ‘Year of Great Divide’. With this year, India entered the second phase of demographic transition. After 1921 India witnessed a continuous rise in the population growth rate. In other words, after 1921, India’s population growth rate never declined and showed a consistent upward trend.

For example, during the 10 year period from the year, 1921 to 1931 India witnessed an addition of 2.76 crores to its population. The next census in 1941 showed an increase of 3.96 crores in the population. After 1951, India witnessed an immensely high population growth rate or ‘population explosion‘.

At the time of independence, India faced a serious challenge in terms of demographic condition and the immediate concern was to reduce the population growth rate along with improvements in other demographic indicators. India is yet to enter the third phase of the demographic transition.

Also, Read Indian Economy on the Eve of Independence

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