One-fourth of Keralites to be 60-plus by mid-century

In 2001 there were only 10 elderly persons for 100 people in Kerala, which by the middle of the century is projected to grow almost to a quarter of the state's total population.
The projection was made by demographic experts at a seminar organised by the state Planning Board jointly with UNDP, which concluded here yesterday.

As per the 2001 census, Kerala accounted for 11 per cent of the country's 77 million elderly. A child born in Kerala was expected to live for 71 years. Women in Kerala produced just 1.6 children, as a result of which the younger age group tended to shrink. According to planners and health experts, the emerging scenario would make geriatric welfare and health care a major area of concern for the state government, requiring focused planning and formulation of strategies.

Now in the final stages of the demographic transition of low fertility and mortality, Kerala has surpassed all other Indian states in achieving the goals of the national family planning policy, including population control. Though the state continues to be a role model for human development in the country, inter-regional disparities, reduced financing for human development, increase in elderly people and special needs of marginalised sections pose a challenge, the participants at the seminar said.

While Kerala has brought much of its elderly population under various welfare pension schemes, some participants mooted the formulation of a universal pension scheme of Rs 500 to all those who had crossed 60 years of age.

Patrice Coeur-Bizot, UNDP Representative in India, said Kerala's development was marked by a paradox of high levels of human development even as per capita incomes remained much lower. Prof Prabhat Patnaik, a noted economist and vice-chairman of state Planning Board, said the seminar was meant to discuss strategies to strengthen the state's human development plans and address the problems of particularly vulnerable groups like tribals and fisherfolk.

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