Mrunal Manmay Dash

The fertility rate in Odisha has come down significantly resulting in an increase in the number of young and old compared to children. It was revealed during a discussion at Odisha Vikash Conclave held in Bhubaneswar on Thursday.

This year’s theme of the biennial conclave was Transformative Odisha @ 2036: Demography and Development.

The State is passing through a phase of rapid demographic transition. It is not only determined by the size of the population and growth rate but by the composition and distribution of the population accompanied by changes in behaviors and aspirations of the people. The sustained decline in fertility coupled with rapid economic and socio-cultural transition is shaping up a different trajectory for the state.

In Odisha, a substantial increase in the percentage of older persons is projected, rising from 11.5% in 2021 to an estimated 17% in 2036. Similarly, the number of children in the age group of 5-14 years in the State is expected to decline from 16 percent in 2021 to 13 percent by 2036.

Jagadananda, Convenor of the Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSD) said, “Odisha is currently a State of youths. But it will turn into a State of elderly by 2036. It will pose challenges for economic development and then the social system.

As per the projection, couples in 14 districts of Odisha are willing to limit their families to one child. In the next 10 years, 30 percent of the State's households will have one child, while Nabarangpur and Rayagada districts will have an exception. Because in these two districts, the majority of the couples wish to have more than two children.

“There will not be any demographic transition in Nabarangpur and Rayagada even after the next 20 years. The fertility rate in these two districts is 2.3 percent in place of 2.1 percent, while 14 districts in Odisha have a fertility rate of less than 1. This inequality is a cause of concern,” said Demography Expert Professor Amitabh Kundu.

Experts say this trend in fertility rate will pose a concern for Odisha after the next 20 years.

Meanwhile, the elderly population of Odisha is increasing at an invisible rate amidst declining fertility and increasing life expectancy. The rate is now 4 percent higher in Odisha than in India.

In particular, the population above 60 years of age is set to increase from 3.9 million in 2011 to 8 million by 2036. Meanwhile, the State is also witnessing a change in the youth population. The population between the ages of 15 and 59 is on the rise. These changes will have an impact on education, health, employment, labor force, performance, and social security.

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