The number and the proportion of India's elderly are growing and so should programmes intended to ensure the comfort and safety of this segment of the population. That’s according to a report by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation titled ‘Elderly In India 2021’.
There are nearly 138 million elderly persons in India in 2021, including 67 million men and 71 million women. An increase of nearly 34 million elderly persons was seen in 2021 over the population census of 2011. This number is expected to increase by 56 million by 2031. On aggregate, the elderly population is projected to have risen by 32.7% between 2011 to 2021, even as the general population has risen by 12.4% during the same period. While elderly men previously outnumbered elderly women, this has now reversed. By 2031, the number of elderly women will be twice as many as in 2011.
As per the projected population of 2021, the sex ratio for the general population is 948 number of females per 1,000 males, quite close to the levels in 1951. However, the sex ratio for the elderly population is much higher at 1,065 women per 1,000 men in 2021. While the population of elderly men is projected to have risen by 26.5% from the 2011 census, the number of elderly women rose 39.1%. By 2031, while the elderly male population is projected to rise by 39% from 2021, the number of elderly females is expected to rise by 41.9%. The increasing share of older persons in the population is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the twenty-first century, with implications for nearly all sectors of society, including labour and financial markets, the demand for goods and services, such as housing, transportation and social protection, as well as family structures and inter-generational ties.
The rise in the elderly population may be due to the longevity of life achieved because of economic well-being, better healthcare and medical facilities and reduction in fertility rates.
In order to mitigate the ill-effects of an ageing population, appropriate social and economic policies need to be put in place, for society to adapt to ageing as well as for older population to adapt to a changing society, social policies for the elderly needs to be critically examined and suitable redesigning are required.
Among 21 major Indian states, Kerala has the maximum proportion of elderly people in its population at 16.5%, followed by Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh in 2021. This proportion is the least in Bihar at 7.7%, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Assam.
As the proportion of the elderly rises, the old age dependency ratio is also rising. That ratio has increased from 14.2% in 2011 to 15.7% in 2021 as per projections. It is expected to rise to 20.1% by 2031. The old age dependency ratio represents the number of persons aged 60+ per 100 persons in the age group 15-59. The ratio is used as a proxy for the economic dependency of the orderly population.
While the projected dependency ratio for females is at 14.8%, for males it is at 16.7% respectively for 2021. There are significant differences in old age dependency ratio for rural and urban areas, likely because of a relatively higher concentration of working age population in urban areas.
Alongside the rise in the share of elderly people in India, the working age population is also rising. In 2021, the proportion of children in the age group 0-14 years is projected to be 25.5% compared to 30.8% in 2011. The working age population is projected to reach 64.4% in 2021 and further increase to 65.2% in 2031 as per data from the census and the report of the technical group on population projections.