Demographic Transition and Its Impact on Women's Lives

Demographic Transition and Its Impact on Women's Lives
Posted on 13-07-2023

Demographic Transition and Its Impact on Women's Lives

World Population Day, observed on July 11th, prompts a reflection on India's demographic journey and the transformative effect it has had on its citizens, particularly women. This article explores the concept of demographic transition, India's demographic changes, and the resulting shifts in women's lives. It also highlights the importance of harnessing the gender dividend to maximize the benefits of demographic transition.


Demographic Transition:

The demographic transition theory describes the changes in mortality, fertility, and population growth rates as societies transition from one demographic regime to another. Coined by demographer Frank W. Notestein, this theory provides a framework to understand the evolution of populations.


India's Demographic Transition:

Since Independence, India's population has grown from 340 million to 1.4 billion. Mortality rates have significantly decreased, leading to increased life expectancy. As a consequence, the need for large families to ensure survival has diminished, resulting in a decline in the total fertility rate from 5.7 in 1950 to 2.1 in 2019.

Changes for Indian Women:

  1. Preference for Sons and Difficulty in Ensuring Birth of Sons: As families began having fewer children, the desire for at least one son became more challenging to fulfill. Cultural norms, patrilocal kinship patterns, and financial insecurities reinforced the preference for sons. This led to practices such as sex-selective abortions and neglect of female children.

  2. Decline in Time Spent on Active Mothering: With declining fertility rates, women gained more time for education and employment. The number of years spent caring for children under five decreased from 14 years in 1992-93 to eight years in 2018-20. Similarly, the years spent caring for children aged six to 15 dropped from 20 to 14 years.

  3. Early Marriage and Childbearing: Despite improvements in educational attainment for women, early marriage and childbearing continue to dominate women's lives. Early motherhood often hinders women's participation in the labor force, limiting their economic potential.


Impact of Demographic Transition on Aging Women:

As life expectancy rises, the proportion of women aged 65 and above has increased. Women tend to outlive their husbands, leading to a higher number of widows compared to widowers. This dependence on children, predominantly sons, perpetuates the cycle of son preference.

Harnessing the Gender Dividend in India: To fully capitalize on the demographic dividend, it is crucial to harness the gender dividend by empowering women and closing gender gaps. Practical strategies include:

  1. Enhancing Women's Access to Employment and Assets: Reducing reliance on sons and breaking the cycle of gendered disadvantage can be achieved by improving women's access to employment opportunities and assets.

  2. Economic Empowerment of Women: Policies and programs should focus on addressing gender gaps across the economic spectrum. Providing access to financial resources, credit, and business opportunities is vital.

  3. Efforts to Increase Female Labor Force Participation: Efforts to increase women's labor force participation must be accompanied by accessible and affordable childcare services. Initiatives like expanding Anganwadis (childcare centers) have shown positive results.


Practical Strategies for Enhancing Childcare Access:

  1. National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS): Making staffing crèches an acceptable form of work under NREGS can utilize this program to develop social infrastructure and provide employment opportunities for childcare workers.

  2. Self-Help Groups: Leveraging the self-help group movement to establish neighborhood child-care centers in both urban and rural areas can enhance childcare access and support women's economic participation.


Conclusion: India's demographic transition presents a significant opportunity, but to fully realize its potential, the gender dividend must be harnessed. Improving access to childcare and empowering women are essential steps toward achieving this goal. By implementing practical strategies and policies, India can foster economic growth and create a more equitable society.

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