Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Apr 16, 2004
Industry & Economy
Population in Kerala greying fast, says study
Thiruvananthapuram , April 15
KERALA is `greying' at a pace almost double the overall rate of growth in population, in the process beating some of the developed countries to it.
During the 1950s, less than six per cent of the population of the State was aged 60 years or more, but that number has now ballooned to 10 per cent, according to latest statistics collated by the Department of Economics and Statistics.
This is well in line, and worryingly so, with the situation obtaining in developed countries where ageing is already well advanced and is feared to continue with serious consequences to the economy.
Population ageing normally refers to the increase in the proportion of "older people", i.e. persons aged 60 and over, in the population.
Ageing has emerged as a global phenomenon thanks largely to the virtually universal decline in fertility and, to a lesser extent, of increases in life expectancy.
Gleanings from the draft of a survey, titled `Need assessment study of the elderly in Kerala' carried out by the Department of Economics and Statistics in year 2002 help bring out the State's predicament in no uncertain terms. Detailed results are still awaited.
Living conditions for the elderly have been further exacerbated due to the migration from the State of educated and skilled persons to outside destinations for employment. Due to the high rate of international migrations and also internal migrations from rural to urban area, older persons are affected seriously as it decreases the number of adult members at home.
The socio-economic impact of this phenomenon has come to be discussed at various fora in developed countries during the past so many years, especially in the second half of the 20th century.
The rate of increase in the number of aged persons at a pace more than that of the general population has been pronounced in the overall statistics pertaining to our country also. But the pace has been much lower than that in Kerala.
Explaining the circumstances leading to the conduct of the survey, sources in the department said that a number of NGOs and charitable and religious institutions had joined the State Government in initiating programmes and schemes aimed at the welfare of the aged persons.
But, concerted efforts for their full-fledged implementation have been largely lacking.
It was felt that a comprehensive ground-level study would be required for formulating a comprehensive programme for the welfare of the senior citizens.
The ageing process is a complex phenomena and it is worthwhile to view the same against a wider canvas of historical, social and economic conditions typically associated with the State's history.
Major highlights of this constantly evolving canvas have been:
a. Abolition of the joint family system and a progressive shift to nuclear family.
b. Scrapping of "Marumakkathayam" that was the hallmark of some of the affluent families.
c. Impact of ground-breaking land reforms.
d. Low per capita availability of land and shift away from an agrarian economy. Average land available per person is about 13 cents in year 2001.
e. High and more or less equal literacy among males and females inducing the eligible to migrate to destinations outside of the State but within the country, and even abroad, in search of jobs.
f. Low birth and death rates.
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