Kerala sees sharp drop in young workforce

Void in young workers will encourage migration of labourers from other states to Kerala further, says study author

Published: 17th September 2021 05:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th September 2021 05:37 AM   |  A+A-

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Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala has been seeing a sharp drop in the number of young people in the total workforce while the number of working people above 50 years has been increasing. If the number of younger working people (20-34 years) was 50.3% in the state in 1991, their number has come down to 36.3% in 2021 and the census-based projection indicates that it is expected to drop further to 33.2% by 2036, according to a study on ‘Demographic Changes in Kerala and the Emerging Challenges: An Assessment’ by the Centre for Socio-economic and Environmental Studies (CSES).

On the other hand, the number of older people (50-64 years) in the workforce has risen from 18.6% in 1991 to 29.1% in 2021 and it is expected to go up to 31.9% by 2036 as per the census-based projections.
Associate fellow of Kochi-based CSES Baishali Goswami, who is an interdisciplinary researcher with international experience in gender, migration, disability and education and author of the paper, said there are different dimensions to this trend in Kerala.

“First, the change in fertility and mortality rates has brought significant changes in the age composition of the population with declining share of child population (0-14 age group) and increasing share of elderly (60+) population. Second, Kerala is becoming an ageing society with nearly 13% of its population aged 60 and above as per the 2011 Census. Third, the state has been witnessing below replacement level fertility over the past three decades which also contributed to the shift in the working age of the population,” she said.

For instance, if the total fertility rate (TFR) was 4.1 children per woman in 1971, it consistently declined in Kerala. The TFR has been hovering in the range of 1.7-1.9 children per woman for the last three decades, whereas the TFR in India is 2.2 children per woman. Of the 14 districts in the state, Hindus achieved replacement level fertility in all districts, while Muslims achieved the same in eight districts with the level in the remaining six being in the range of 2.1 to 3 children per woman.

The demographic transition along with other factors has contributed to the shift.

“Though the fertility rate in many Western countries has gone down to ultra low level from the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman in the recent times, Kerala is expected to not witness a sudden drop in the coming decades as the family values are deeply entrenched in the traditional family system here unlike many other foreign countries. But the void in young workers will encourage migration of young labourers from other states to Kerala further. The future pace of demographic transition, therefore, will be determined by how fast the in-migrants are integrated with the current level of human development of the state,” she said.

Demographic features of state

  1. Life expectancy in the state is 75 years as against the national average of 69 years — women up to 78 years and men up to 73 years
  2. The state achieved the replacement level of fertility of 2.1 children per woman in 1988
  3. Total fertility rate in Kerala and India are 1.7 and 2.2, respectively

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