The recently announced provisional results of the Census of India 2011 confirm Kerala's standing as a leader in stabilising population growth and achieving demographic transition, defined by the Government of India's National Commission on Population as “the transition from a stable population with high mortality and fertility to a stable population with low mortality and fertility.”

According to the 2011 census — the second census of the 21{+s}{+t} century and the seventh after Independence — Kerala's population as on 1st March, 2011 is 3,33,87,677, with 1,60,21,290 males and 1,73,66,387 females.

Kerala's population

Although Kerala accounts for only 1 per cent of the total area of India, it contains about 3 per cent of the country's population. The population density of the State is about 819 people per square kilometres, three times the national average of 324. Kerala is one of the densest States in the country.

The percentage decadal growth rate of Kerala's population during 2001-2011 was 4.86, compared to 17.64 for India as a whole, which has a total population of 1,21,01,93,422. For the same period, Kerala reported a literacy rate of 93.91 per cent, compared to 74.04 for India. The total number of literates during the 2011 census period was 2,82,34,227 — 1,37,55,888 males and 1,44,78,339 females. The Registrar General & Census Commissioner of India defines as literate any person aged seven and above who can both read and write with understanding in any language.

An illiterate is a person who can neither read nor write or can only read, but cannot write in any language. All children six years old or younger, even if they go to school and have picked up reading and writing, are treated as illiterate.

Kerala's sex ratio — the number of females per 1,000 males — also remains impressive. As of 2011, it was 1084 (with a ratio of 959 in the 0-6 years child population), compared to the all-India ratio of 940 (and 914 as the child sex ratio). On the whole, these statistics show that Kerala has consolidated its demographic transition — a stabilisation of the population level once a certain level of socioeconomic achievement has been reached, mainly because of economic incentives on families to limit the number of their children. Today, Kerala boasts population and demographic charecteristics that are close to those displayed by developed industrialised countries.


For instance, Kerala reports a total fertility rate (TFR) — a measure of the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her reperoductive lifetime — of 1.7. Demographers point out that a population that maintains a TFR of 3.8 over an extended period of time without a correspondingly high death or emigration rate would increase rapidly, whereas a population that maintained a TFR of 2.0 over a long time would decline (unless it had a large enough immigration).

The TFR for the total US population is at around the replacement level of about 2.1 children per woman. The average TFR in Europe has been estimated to be 1.5 children per woman. One study states that the lowest TFR recorded anywhere in the world in recorded history is for Xiangyang district of Jiamusi city, in Heilongjiang, China, which had a TFR of 0.41. Outside China, the lowest TFR ever recorded was 0.80 for Eastern Germany in 1994.

By going beyond the replacement fertility rate of 2.1 births per woman, Kerala is at the same level as most industrialised countries.

Before the demographic transition, societies typically experience high death rates matched by high birth rates, resulting in a relatively stable population size over time. Over time, improving living standards and public health measures bring down death rates, which is soon followed by a gradual drop in birth rates, which ultimately begin to match death rates.

By the year 2026, India is projected to have a population of 139.8 crore, while Kerala will have 3.7 crore. However, if the State can maintain its achievements, such as low infant mortality rate, high life expectancy and high female literacy, the population growth rate will remain among the lowest in the country.

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