Kerala is heading for a significant phase in its demographic transition with the State moving towards achieving zero population growth rate, which will result in an increase in scarcity of labour.

With a very low fertility rate and stabilising death rate, Kerala is expected to achieve zero population growth rate in 25 to 30 years, a stage indicating the incipient decline of the population, according to the State Urbanisation Report.

“Kerala is already experiencing negative population growth and with the birth and death rate remaining at the same level, the State’s population growth will reach the zero level,” the Population Expert at the Centre for Development Studies, Gridhyaraj, told PTI here.

The very low natural increase in population, a low fertility rate and a stabilised death rate all lead to the third stage of demographic transition in Kerala — zero population growth rate, he said.

There would be more old people, leading to health-related problems. Also, there would be shortage of labour.

The report, prepared by the Department of Town and Country Planning, found that migration from the State and decline in fertility were a cause for the low population growth.

Interestingly there were regional variations in population growth. There was also a spatial shift in the region of high population growth rate in the last five decades.

While in the 1950s, the southern districts showed high population growth, at present the growth rate is in central and northern districts, the report said.

Currently Kerala’s population is 3.34 crore, constituting about 2.7 per cent of the total population of India. The annual population growth rate is 0.5 per cent, lowest in the country.

Kerala has a high population density with 859 persons per square kilometre.

Historically Kerala has experienced a very low population growth rate compared to the national population growth rate.

Kerala has been considered an ‘out-migration’ State right from the 1930’s.According to a study of the city-based Centre for Development Studies, 22.8 lakh people from the State were living abroad in 2011, while the number of migrants living in other States is estimated at 9.31 lakh.

The report said Kerala, which already depends on workers from other States, especially West Bengal, Orissa and the North-East for construction activity, would also face labour shortages in agriculture and related activities in future.

Kerala now has around three million immigrant labourers, mainly in the construction sector and other allied activities.

On population features in urban areas, the report said the growth rate of the urban population has always been higher than that of the total population, indicating the high pace of urbanisation experienced in Kerala.

“The State has undergone the highest level of urbanisation in its history with a percentage increase of 83.82 during 2001-2011 over the previous decade,” it said.

According to the present urbanisation pattern, environmentally sensitive high land is spared, but fertile agriculture land in the midlands is being converted for commercial and residential purposes, the report said

(This article was published on August 10, 2012)
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