Abstract : The article examines the rate of growth of population, marital
status of females, fertility levels and trend of sex ratio in the state of
Kerala. The major factors that determine the growth of population. such
as education and economic status are examined.
The first modern census was conducted in 1801 in Britain amidst fears that the country’s growing population would outstrip the supply of food. The mode of census from method of collecting, storing, processing and assessing the information, to the kind of details that are solicited, have undergone great changes over the last two centuries. India has an unbroken history of regular decennial modern censuses over the last hundred years. It is an administrative exercise of national importance conducted jointly by the Central and State governments. The second phase of census of India, 2001 i.e., population enumeration, was carried out in the state of Kerala from 9 February to 28th February 2001 with reference date as ‘00.00’ hrs, of 1st March. The general data collected on the state of Kerala with reference to population structure, nuptiality and fertility, education, work, religion, language, housing and household eminities for which figures are available now, give us an idea about the population scenario with reference to the past present and future. The following paper touches on some of the key indicators that are of interest to students of demographic transition.
The total area of Kerala is 38,863 sq.km in 2001 census which is 1.27% of the total area of India. In the 1991 census the hilly district of Idukki was the largest district in area with 5,019 sq.km and the smallest was the coastal district of Alappuzha with 1,414 sq.km. Due to inter-district transfer, the total area of Idukki district has reduced to 4358 sq. km in 2001 census and as a result of reduction in area of Idukki district, Palakkad district occupied the position of largest district with 4,480 sq.km and Idukki district has been relegated to the second position. Alappuzha is still the smallest district. The third and fourth positions are held by Malappuram and Ernakulam districts respectively. The final area figures of the state and the districts are supplied by the Surveyor General of India, Dehradun.
Population density is the number of persons per sq. km. In the state of Kerala, the density has increased from 749 persons per sq. km in 1991 to 819 persons per sq. km in 2001. In the 1991 census, Kerala was the 3rd highest among the states of India in density and its density was 2.8 times the all India density of 267 persons per sq. km. The density of the state has steadily increased from 165 in 1901 to 819 in 2001 census. In 2001 census also Kerala retains its 3rd rank among the states in density. Though the density of Kerala has increased during 1991-01, it is now only 2.5 times the all India density of 324 persons per sq. km. Other two states having density higher than Kerala are Bihar and West Bengal.
Among the districts, Alappuzha has the highest density of 1492 persons per sq. km in 12001 census while its density was 1414 persons per sq. km in 1991. The other districts which are closely following Alappuzha are Thiruvananthapuram (1476), Kollam (1038), Kozhikode(1228), Malappuram ( 1021) and Ernakulam( 1012).
Trend of Population Growth-Rate
The population of Kerala at ‘00.00’ hrs of 1st March 2001 stood at 31,841,374 comprising 15,468,614 males and 16,372,760 females. Kerala’s share to the total population of the country is only 3.10%. In absolute terms, the population of Kerala has increased by 2.7 million during the net addition in population has decreased consistently during each decade starting from 1971. The change in net addition has also shown a steady declining trend over three decades starting from 1971.
Kerala ranks twelfth among the states in India in population size. The other states having higher rank in population size are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat and Orissa. Over the last hundred years (1901-2001), the population of Kerala has shown a net addition of 254 lakhs and an increase of 397.81 per cent. The percentage decadal growth during 1971-1981 registered the sharpest decline since independence. It had declined from 26.29 per cent for 1961-71 to 19.24 per cent for 1971-81, a point decrease of 7.05 percentage points. Thereafter the growth-rate has witnessed decline but the percentage of decrease has steadily declined from 7.05 in 1981 to 4.9 in 1991 and remained static in 2001. The present growth-rate of 9.4 per cent is the lowest among the Indian states and is also the second lowest during the last 100 years, the lowest growth-rate of 9.16 per cent being recorded in 1921.
Decadal Growth from 1901-1911 to 1991-2001
Decade Net decadal growth Change in decadal growth
1901 – –
1911 0.8 –
1921 0.7 -0.1
1931 1.7 +1
1941 1.5 -0.2
1951 2.5 +1
1961 3.4 0.9
1971 4.4 +1
1981 4.1 -0.3
1991 3.6 -0.5
2001 2.7 -0.9
Among the districts of Kerala, the growth-rate is not uniform. During the inter-censal period 1991-2001, a decline of more than five percentage points indecadal growth-rate from the previous census decade was recorded for the districts of Kasargod, Kannur, Wayanad, Kozhikode, Malappuram and Palakkad. These six northern districts together account for 42.45% of the state’s population. Malappuram has registered the sharpest drop of 11.78 percentage points during the said period followed by Kasaragod (10.41) and Kannur (9.65). Thrissur (3.54), Ernakulam (2.07), Idduki (3.42), Alappuzha (l. 89), Pathanamthitta (1.76), Kollam (3.30) and Thiruvananthapuram districts (3.74) have shown a decline of one to 4 percentage points in their growth-rate during 1991-2001 as compared to 1981-1991.These seven districts account for 51.42% of the state’s population. Kottayam (0.85) has registered the lowest percentage increase in decadal growth-rate as compared to 1981-1991. The most populous district of Kerala is Malappuram with 3,625,471 persons. Wayanad district is the least populated with 780,619 persons. The districts, which cross the average size, are Kannur (24.1), Kozhikode (28.8), Malappuram (36.3), Palakkad (26.2), Thrissur (29.7), Ernakulam (31.1), Kollam (25.9) and Thiruvananthapuram (32.3).
The growth of population during 1991-2001 has declined in all the districts of the state as compared to the growth-rate in 1981-91. Malappuram district has the highest growth-rate during 1991-2001 with 17.09%. The growth-rate of Wayanad and Malappuram districts differs marginally. Wayanad district had highest growth-rate in 1941-51, 1961-71 and 1971-81. But it has declined steadily since 1961. In 1981, it was having the highest growth-rate with Malappuram at second position. Since 1991 census, Malappuram district has overtaken Wayanad district and gained position as the district having the highest growth-rate. Kasargode, Wayanad, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad and Thiruvananthapuram are the six districts having growth-rate higher than the average growth-rate of the state during 1991-2001. All the other districts have growth-rate less than the state average. Pathanamthitta district has the lowest growth-rate of 3.92% during 1991-2001.
Marital Status of Females in Census
In census, sex-wise distribution of population by age group and marital status are given. The marital status groupings in the census are never married, married, widowed and divorced or separated. In 1961 Census, of the 8,417, 788 females, 51.05% were never married, 36.47% married, 10.04% widowed and 2.41 % divorced or separated. Of the 4,360,320 never married females, 0-14 age group had 3,542,409 females forming 81.24% of the never married females. 30+ age group had only 1.70% never married females, 65-69 age group had the least number of never married females. The age group 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45- 49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69 and 70+ had less than one percentage of never married females.
Of the 36.47%(3,115,393) married females, 64.09% were in the 20-39 age group. In the age group 10-19, there were 226,127 married females, who formed only 7.26%.
Of the 10.04% (857,378) widowed females, 70+ age group constituted 166,368 widowed females which is about 19.40%. The percentage of widowed females show increase from the age group 15-19 to 50-54. The age group 55-59 had less percentage of widowed females as compared to the preceding age group of 50-54. Again in the age group 60-64 the percentage of widowed females shows an increase. The age group 65-69 had lesser number of widowed females as compared to the age group 45-49.
Of the 206,157 divorced females, 789 were in the age group 10-14. The highest percentage (17.83%) of divorced females were in the age group 25-29. The percentage of divorced females shows decline from 30-34 age group onwards. Majority of the divorced females — 129693- forming 63% were in the age group 20-39. The age group 15-19 had 6% divorced females.
Marital status of female in 1971 Census is 53.32% never married, 36.04% married, 8.99% widowed and 1.65% divorced or separated. As compared to 1961, the percentage of widowed and divorced females had declined in 1971, whereas the percentage of never married had shown an increase. On the other hand percentage of married females had shown a decline. The decline is negligible. In 0-14 age group the percentage of never married females had declined to 73.94% from 81.24% in 1961. 30+ age group had comparatively higher percentage (2.02%) of never married females in comparison to 1961 Census.
In the case of married females, there was a drop of 0.43% in 1971. In 1961, 64.09% of the females in the age group 20-39 were married whereas according to 1971 Census, their percentage had come down to 61.12%. A decline in percentage of married females is also seen in the age group 10-19 from 7.26% in 1961 to 5.85% in 1971. It also shows that 40+ age group had more number of married females in 1971 than in 1961.
22.76% of the females in the age group 70+ were widowed whereas in 1961 their corresponding percentage was only 19.40%. A cursory look at the widowed females in different age groups reveals that the number of widowed females had shown an increasing trend upto age group 60-64. Thereafter in the age group 65-69, their numbers declined as compared to 60-64 age group. There was a sudden jump of widowed females in the age group 35-39, 45-49, 60-64 and 70+ in comparison to the immediately preceding age group. The jump was very sharp in the age group 70+ i.e., 12.59% in the age group 65-69 to 22.76% in the age group 70+.
In 1971 the highest percentage of divorced females was in the age group 35-39 whereas the corresponding position was occupied by the age group 25-29 in 1961. There was a continuous increase in the number of divorced females from 15-19 to 35-39 age group. Thereafter a declining trend is seen. As in 1961, majority of the divorced females (55.55%) were in the age group 20-39. The age group 15-19 had 5.41% divorced females. Their percentage was less as compared to 1961.
It is appreciable to note that in 1981 Census, the percentage of never married and divorced females had declined as compared to the previous censuses of 1961 and 1971. The percentage of never married females declined from 51.05% in 1961 to 50.85% in 1981 and divorced or separated from 2.41% to 1.40%.
As usual 0-14 age group had the highest percentage of never married females (66.84%). A declining trend in the percentage of never married females had been seen in the age group 0-14 from 1961 Census i.e., from 81.24% in 1961 to 66.84% in 1981. The percentage of never married females in 30+ age group had successively increased to 2.39% in 1981 from 1.70% in 1961. 15-19 age group had 20.37% never married females. 4804 married females were reported in the age group 10-14 in 1981. The age group 20-39 had 3,018,623 married females (60.43%). The percentage of married females had steadily declined in the age group 20-39 from 64.09% in 1961 to 61.12% in 1971 and then to 60.43% in 1981. In the age group 40-44 the percentage of married women was 9.31%. The corresponding percentages in 1961 and 1971 were 8.78 and 10.08 respectively. There was slight increase in the percentage of married females in the age group 40-44 in 1981 as compared to 1961, which shows an increase in the age of marriage of females. Of the 569,376 females in the age group 40-44 only 81.69% were married in 1981 whereas the corresponding percentages in 1961 and 1971 were 73.50% and 77.30% respectively.
Widowed females in 1981 numbered 1,174,180. The age group 10-19 had 1184 widowed females. The highest percentage of widowed females as usual was found in the age group 70+ (26.62%), The trend shows that from census to census, the percentage of widowed females in 70+ is on increase i.e., from 19.40% in 1961 to 26.62% in 1981. It is an indirect indicator of higher life expectancy for females in this age group.
Divorced females accounted for only 1.40% in 1981. The highest percentage of divorced females were in the age group 25-29 (14.68%). As compared to 1961, the percentage of divorced females in this age group had come down from 17.83% in 1961. The majority of the divorced females were in the age group 20-39 (53.73%).
The 1991 Census figures reveal that the percentage of never married, widowed and divorced females in the state had come down as compared to the previous censuses from 1961. There was 5% point decline in the case of never married females as compared to 1981. The percentage of married females had witnessed more than 6% point increase in 1991 from 1981.
The age group 0-14 had the highest percentage (62.61 %) never married females. There were 2,411,793 never married females in the age group 15-44 who formed about 35.53%. The age group 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75-79 and 80+ had less than 1% never married females. It is seen that percentage of never married females had declined from 81.24% in 1961 to 73.94% in 1971 to 66.84% in 1981 and 62.60% in 1991 in the age group 0-14. Within a gap of 30 years, the percentage of never married females had declined by 19% in the age group 0 – 14.
There are 182,206 married females in the age group 10-19 who formed about 2.78% in 1991. The corresponding percentages were 7.26% (226,127) in 1961, 5.85% (226,850) in 1971 and 4.53% (226,326) in 1981. This shows that there was decline in the percentage of married women in the age group 10-19 and the tendency to get married at a later age was prevailing in the state. In the age group 20-39, the percentage of married females was 60.19% in 1991. In comparison to censuses of 1961 , 1971 and 1981, a decreasing trend in percentage of females married in this age group was seen. It was 64.09% in 1961, 61.12% in 1971 and 60.43% in 1981. The percentage of married females in the age group 40-44 was 8.78 in 1961 which had increased to 10.08 in 1971. In 1981, the percentage had declined to 9.31%. In 1991, again a slight increase in the percentage of married females in the age group 40-44 is seen.
The age group 10-19 had 1350 widowed females. The percentage of widowed females in the age group 70+ was 30.22%. In 70+ there was increase in percentage from 19.40 in 1961 to 30.22% in 1991 showing that females had better life expectancy than their counterparts in this age group and the life expectancy of males was on the wane.
The percentage of divorced females declined from 0.38% in 1961 to 0. 11 % in 1991. The highest percentage of divorced females was in the age group 35-39 (15.68%). The numerical strength of divorced females had shown a jump in the age group 25-29 from 20-24. Up to 35-39, there was continuous increase in the numerical strength of divorced females. A declining trend was seen from 40-44 age group onwards. The age group 20-39 had 50.88% divorced females in the state. However, in 1991, there was substantial decline in the percentage of divorced females in the age group 20-39 as compared to 1981 (53.72%).
The following statement shows the percentage of females in various marital status groupings in censuses from 1961 to 1991.
The Percentage of Female in Various Marital Status Groupings.
Census year Never married Married Widowed Divorced
1961 51.05 36.47 10.04 2.41
1971 53.32 36.04 8.99 1.65
1981 50.85 38.65 9.08 1.40
1991 45.84 44.29 8.77 1.10
Fertility Levels and Trends
Fertility is the basic factor contributing to the growth of population. When fertility is high the rate of growth of population will also be high unless there is high mortality and abnormal out migration. Fertility is indicated by the number of children born. Several ratios, relating births to population, women and related aspects have been defined as measures of fertility. Some of these ratios are given below:
Crude birth rate (CBR): Number of children born per 1000 population. It is the most common measure of fertility.
Age specific fertility rate (ASFR): Average number of children born alive during the last one year per woman of a particular age group.
Age specific marital fertility rate (ASMFR): Average number of children born alive during the last one year per married woman of a particular age group.
General fertility rate (GMFR): Number of children born alive during the last year per 1000 women of child bearing ages.
Total fertility rate (TFR): The total number of children that would have been born alive per woman had the current schedule of age specific fertility rates been applicable for the entire reproductive period. In practice, total fertility rate is calculated as the sum of age specific fertility rates in five-year age groups multiplied by 5.
Total marital fertility rate (TMFR): The total number of children that would have been born alive per married woman had the current schedule of age specific marital fertility rates been applicable for the reproductive period.
Another simple indicator of fertility is the average number of children born per woman who has completed the reproductive period. Parity indicates the number of births per woman. If the number of children ever born to a woman is 3, then the past birth is of order 3 and the woman is referred to as woman of parity 3.
Besides these simple measures of fertility, several other refined rates also are defined and used by experts engaged in the study of population. But the simple measures referred to above are the most widely known and these rates are sufficient to study the levels and trends.
Information on fertility is collected in all censuses. Child-woman ratio is defined as the ratio of children under age 15 to women of childbearing ages. Commonly the ages between 15 and 44 are taken as childbearing ages. But some changes are often made in the actual computation depending on the age distribution available. The child woman ratio computed on the basis of female in the age group 15-44 come to 60.44 in 1971. The corresponding ratio for 1961 was 69.97. Thus there was reduction in the fertility rate during 1961-1971. This corroborates our view that family planning had succeeded to some extent in reducing the number of births in the state.
According to information collected in the census of 1981, the fertility rates in Kerala were comparatively low. The general fertility rate and general marital fertility rate in the state were 79 and 127 respectively. Total fertility and total marital fertility rates were 2.4 and 4.0 respectively.
The fertility rates in rural areas were higher than in urban areas. In the rural areas, the general fertility rate was 81 and general marital fertility rate 129 against the corresponding rates of 68 and 115 in urban areas. Similarly total fertility rate was 2.5 in rural areas against 2.1 in urban areas and total marital fertility rate was 4.1 in rural areas and 3.8 in urban areas.
Among the three predominant religious groups in the state, the fertility rates were the highest among Muslims and the lowest among Christians. Hindus came in between. General fertility rates were 71 for Hindus, 115 for Muslims and 66 for Christians while the general marital fertility rates were 117 for Hindus, 159 for Muslims and 116 for Christians. Total fertility rate and total marital fertility rate were respectively 2.2 and 3.9 for Hindus, 3.6 and 4.7 for Muslims and 2.1 and 4.0 for Christians.
Education plays an important role in reducing births. Total fertility rates were 2.9 for illiterates, 2.6 for literates below middle school level, 2.2 for literates above middle but below matric and 1.8 for matrics, graduates and above. While the total marital fertility rates were 3 for illiterates, 4.0 for literates below middle level, it was 3.5 for matriculates and 3.3 for graduates.
In the census of 1991 the number of births, which occurred to the currently married women in the year preceding the census, was ascertained. According to the census, 476,258 children were born in Kerala in the one year preceding the census. The population counted in the census was 29,098,518 and based on this, the crude birth rate works out to 16.37. There are two factors affecting the reliability of this rate. In the census, the births that occurred to those women whose marital status was ‘married’ at the time of census, alone were collected. Some births would have occurred to women who became widowed after pregnancy or died after childbirth in the year preceding the census and these births have not been counted in the census. Normally the mid-year population is taken to compute the birth rate. But here we have considered the census population that related to 1st March 1991. However the above rate falls short of the birth rate of 18.3 calculated under Sample Registration System. The crude birth rate in 1981 census was 20.79.
Leaving aside the crude birth rate we may now examine the fertility pattern of the state with some of the more refined indicates described above. For working out these rates, the age group 15-49 has been taken as the childbearing age group. In the tables prepared from the information collected from the census, some births have been recorded for women outside this age group. In 1991 census 130 births have been reported for women below 15 years and 5540 births have been reported for women aged 50 years and above. In 1981 census the corresponding figures were 20 and 1546. These entries especially those relating to women aged 50 years and above may be the result of mis-reporting of age. These births have been ignored while calculating the rates discussed.
Both the age specific fertility rate and the age specific marital fertility rate show that fertility is highest among women of the age group 20-24. As large majority of females in the age group 15-19 are unmarried, the age specific fertility rate is comparatively very low in this age group, But among the married females of this age group, fertility is higher than that of their counterparts in the age group 25-29.
As most of the women get married before attaining 30 years of age, the disparity between age specific fertility rate and age specific marital fertility rate is declining from the age group 25-29 onwards. Out of 470,588 births which occurred to women aged 15-49 years, 79.36 per cent are to women aged between 15 and 19 years, 39.85 per cent to those aged 20-24 and 33.35 per cent to those aged 25-29. Fertility sharply declined in the age group 30-34 from the age group of 25-29. Age specific fertility rates in all age groups are less in urban areas than in rural areas.
General Fertility Rate and General Marital Fertility Rate
In Kerala the general fertility rate was 58 and general marital fertility rate was 89 as per the census of 1991. This shows that the state has a comparatively low level of fertility. The fertility rates have come down significantly during the decade 1981-91. According to the census of 1981, general fertility rate and general marital fertility rate in the state were 79 and 127 respectively. Total fertility rate and total marital fertility rate in the state were 1.7 and 3.1 respectively in 1991 against 2.4 and 4.0 respectively in 1981.
The fertility rates in urban areas were lower than the rates in rural areas. The general fertility rate and total fertility rate in urban areas were 53 and 1.5 against 60 and 1.8 respectively in rural areas. Similarly general marital fertility rate and total marital fertility rate were 83 and 3.0 in urban areas instead of 91 and 3.1 respectively in rural areas. The decline in fertility during the decade may be seen in both rural and urban areas. In 1981 while the general fertility rate and total fertility rate in urban areas were 68 and 2.1 respectively the corresponding rates in rural areas were 81 and 2.5. In 1981, urban areas had general marital fertility rate of 83 and total marital fertility rate of 3.8. At the same time the corresponding rates in rural areas were 129 and 4.1 respectively.
Hindus, Muslims and Christians are the three predominant religious groups in Kerala. It will be interesting to see whether there is difference in the fertility rates of these religious groups. General marital fertility rates is 81 for Hindus, 115 for Muslims and 79 for Christians. Total marital fertility rate is 2.93 for Hindus, 3.46 for Muslims and 2.86 for Christians.
The fertility rates have come down during the decade 1981-91 for all the three religious groups. In 1981 general marital fertility rate were 117 for Hindus 159 for Muslims and 116 for Christians. The total marital fertility rates were 3.9 among Hindus, 4.7 for Muslims and 4.0 for Christians.
When we consider married females by different literacy levels the total marital fertility rate is found to be lowest among those having qualification above graduation. However, the difference between females of different literacy levels is not very discernible. Total marital fertility rate varies between 3.2 for literates below middle and 2.8 for graduates and above. Interestingly the total marital fertility rate of illiterates is 3.1, which is slightly less than that of the literates with educational level below middle class. There is no difference between below metric and above metric but below graduation. Both have total marital fertility rate of 3.0.
After examining the trends of current fertility it will be relevant to consider the trends of lifetime fertility For this purpose it is assumed that females in the age group 45-49 are those who have completed the reproductive period.
In the census of 1991 the number of children ever born to ever-married women was ascertained. According to the census the average number of children ever born per woman who has completed the reproductive period in Kerala is 3.8 in urban areas and 4.0 in rural areas as well as for rural and urban areas together.
Among the ever-married women who completed the reproductive period, 36.1 per cent has given birth to 5 or more children. While 37.4 per cent of ever married women in rural areas have given birth to 5 or more children only 32.6 per cent of ever-married women in urban areas have 5 or more children born. Earlier, in family planning campaigns people were persuaded to limit the number of children to 2. It will be interesting to examine whether this campaign had any effect. In Kerala, 14.1 per cent of ever married women in the age group 45-49 have only 2 children. In urban areas their proportion is slightly higher with 16.17 per cent against 13.3 per cent in rural areas. Childlessness or infertility is a problem of many women. In Kerala 5.8 per cent of women who completed reproductive period, have no children. There is no significant difference between rural and urban areas in this respect, 5.7 per cent in rural areas and 5.8 per cent in urban areas.
There is significant difference between the religious groups in respect of fertility. While Muslim women have given birth to 5.3 children on an average, Christian women have 3.8 children and Hindu women 3.6 children. Among Muslim women 59.7 per cent have 5 children or more while only 29.3 per cent of Hindu women and 32.3 per cent of Christian women have given birth to 5 or more children. 15.1 per cent of Christian women and 14.0 per cent of Hindu women have the ideal family size of 2 children. But among Muslim women only 7.2 per cent have 2 children. Infertility is least among Christians. Only 3.9 per cent of Christian women are childless whereas 6.4 per cent of Hindu women and 5.6 per cent of Muslim women are without any children.
Sex composition of the human population is one of the basic demographic characteristics, which is extremely vital for any meaningful demographic analysis. Sex ratio means the number of females per 1000 males.
In 1961 census. the sex ratio of 0-6 age group was 972 females per 1000 males. The single year age ‘0’ had the sex ratio of 988 females per 1000 males, followed by single year age 3 with 987 females per 1000 males. In 1971, the single year age ‘0′ had 1008 females per 1000 males, followed by single year age 3 with 997 females per 1000 males. The 0-6 age group had 976 females per 1000 males; showing an increase in sex ratio of 0-6 age group in 1971 as compared to 1961. In 1981, the sex ratio of 0-6 age group had declined to 970, which was even less than what was in 1961. The single year age group 3 had the highest sex ratio of 990 females per 1000 males. The single year age ‘0’ had sex ratio 977 which was less than what was in 1961 for the corresponding single year age ‘0’.
In 1991, the sex ratio of 0-6 age group had further declined to 958. Single year age 6 had the highest sex ratio of 1004 females per 1000 males. In 2001, the sex ratio of 0-6 age group has witnessed an increase of two points from 1991 i.e., 960 females per 1000 males. Changes in sex composition largely reflect the underlying socio-economic and cultural pattern of a society. In the case of sex ratio, Kerala is unique being the only state in India where females have preponderance over males. An analysis of sex ratio pattern reveals that it has gradually increased from 1004 in 1901 to 1028 in 1951 and then showed a slight declining trend in 1961 and 1971. Since then, it has shown a steadily increasing trend. The census showed that Kerala is the only state in India where sex ratio is above the equality ratio with 1058 females per 1000 males.
The state saw the sharpest increase of22 points in the sex ratio in 2001. The only other State / Union territory having a +ve sex ratio is Pondicherry with 1001 and 1007 in 1991 and 2001 respectively.
Sex ratio of child population also warrants attention. In 1991 census, the child sex ratio of the state i.e., the sex ratio of males and females in the age group 0-6 was 958. It has increased by two points to 960 in 2001 census. Child sex ratio is negative in all the districts, as it shows more number of male children than female in the 0-6 age group. Idukki district is reported to have highest child sex ratio in 2001- 969, closely followed by Pathanamthitta district (967). Ernakulam district is reported to have the lowest child sex ratio of 954.
Sex Ratio; Adult & Child
State Sex Ratio Child Sex Ratio (1991 Sex Ratio
given in brackets
Kerala 1058 (1036) 960 (958)
Kasaragod 1047 (1026) 959 (962)
Kannur 1090 (1049) 962 (969)
Wayanad 995 (996) 959 (966)
Kozhikode 1057 (1027) 959 (956)
Malappuram 1066 (1053) 960 (958)
Palakkad 1066 (1061) 963 (969)
Thrissur 1092 (1085) 958 (951)
Ernakulam 1019 (1000) 959 (949)
Idukki 993 (975) 969 (959)
Kottayam 1025 (1003) 962 (948)
Alappuzha 1079 (1051) 956 (946)
Pathanamthitta 1049 (1062) 967 (957)
Kollam 1069 (1035) 960 (959)
Thiruvananthapuram 1060 (1036) 962 (964)
The census figures display a healthy trend as far as the state of Kerala is concerned, especially with regard to the growth of population. Kerala has registered the sharpest decline in growth of population since independence. The present growth rate 9.4% is the lowest among the Indian states and the second lowest during the last hundred years. The reduction in population growth is related to the reduction in fertility rate, which is a standing proof of the success of family planning campaigns in the state. It is interesting to note that the fertility rates have come down for all the three religious groups, namely, Hindus, Christians and Muslims. Though not very perceptible, the total fertility rate is the lowest among those highly qualified. Educated women control births and higher the educational level, lower the fertility. The sex ratio also has shown a gradual increase from 1901 to 1951, showing a slight decline in 1961 and 1971 and then a steady increase. It is encouraging that Kerala is the only state in India where the sex ratio is above the equality ratio with 1058 females for 1000 males.
It would be interesting to consider the term ‘literacy’ at the general levelwith respect to census. Literacy was a census question in the very first census inthe country. In the 1872 census the information on education was ascertained inrespect of every person enumerated, whether he or she was only able to sign hisor her name, and in regard to all persons under 20 years of age whether theywere attending school, college or under private tuition. In the 1881 census,enumerators were directed to collect data under three groupings, ‘ underinstruction,’ ‘not under instruction but able to read and write’ and ‘not underinstruction and not able to read and write’. In the 1891 census the populationwas classified as ‘learning’, ‘knowing (literate)’ and ‘illiterate’. In the 1901census the population was classified as ‘literate’ and ‘illiterate’. In the 1911census literacy was defined as ‘ability to both read and write’. It was explainedthat ‘only those persons could be treated as literate who could write a letter to afriend and read his reply’. With slight local variations this definition was moreor less followed in the 1921 and 1931 censuses. In the old Travancore state,which now forms part of Kerala, the definition was slightly different. It wasalso laid down that a person could be classified as a literate provided he had’passed the fourth standard in vernacular education or had the same degree ofproficiency in reading and writing as one who had completed the standard’. Inthe next two censuses the definitions adopted were almost similar to that followedin the 1931 census. Ability to read and write was the test of literacy in latercensuses. In all the censuses from 1891 to 1941 a question on literacy in Englishwas also asked. From the 1951 census, this question was discontinued. In the1941 census, in addition to the question on literacy, details on the ‘highestexamination that a person had passed’ were canvassed. In later censuses alsothis question was followed with slight alterations in details. Both in 1961 and1971 censuses, data on technically qualified personnel were also collected.
In the 1971 census, a literate was described as a person who could both read and write with understanding in any language. A person who could merely read but could not write was not a literate. It was not necessary that a person Who was literate should have received any formal education or should have passed any minimum educational standard.
If a person claimed to be a literate in some other language, the respondent’s word was taken as correct. All children up to 4 years of age were treated as illiterate even if the child was going to school and had picked up reading and writing a few words. Ability merely to sign one’s name was not adequate to qualify a person as being able to write with understanding.
The highest educational level attained by a person was ascertained and recorded. For a person who was still studying in a particular class, the highest educational level attained by him/her was the one that he had actually passed and not the one in which he/she was studying. When a person had both general and technical qualifications, the technical educational level was given preference. Where the general educational level was higher than the technical educational level or where it was not possible to decide which of the two levels was relatively higher, the highest level of education as received by the person concerned was recorded. In recording the highest educational level of a graduate or a post-graduate, his subject of specialisation was recorded. Detailed information in respect of graduates or post-graduates or those with a technical diploma or degree was collected through a ‘Degree Holder and Technical Personnel Card’. The persons concerned were requested to fill the details and hand over the card to the enumerator.
In Kerala by present standards, I to IV constitute the lower primary section while standards V to VII the upper primary section. The high school section or secondary school section has standards VIII to X. Those persons who were studying in lower primary sections and had not passed standard IV were classified under ‘literate without educational level’. Persons who had passed standard IV and not passed standard VII were grouped under ‘lower primary’. Those who had passed standard VII and not passed standard X came under upper primary. Persons whose educational level was given as ‘middle’ included those who had passed the upper primary. Similarly those persons who had passed standard X, S.S.L.C. or its equivalent were treated as “matriculation or higher secondary’. Those whose educational level could not be classified were included under “literate without educational level. ‘
The definition for a literate person was first arrived at in the 1971 census. A person who could both read and write with understanding in any language was taken as literate. A person who could merely read but could not write was not considered as literate. All children of the age of 4 years or less were treated as illiterate even if the child was going to a school and might have picked up reading and writing a few odd words. This definition was retained in the 1981 and 1991 censuses.
But in the 1991 census all children of the age of 6 years or less were treated as illiterate even if the child was going to a school and might have picked up reading and writing a few odd words.
As in 1991 census, in 2001 census also, the same definition of literacy was retained.
People who are blind and can read in Braille are considered as literate in 2001 census.
Analysis of Literacy Rate from 1901 to 2001.
Year Persons Male Female
1901 12.85 22.05 3.65
1911 15.45 25.82 5.15
1921 21.95 32.20 11.84
1931 25.58 37.14 14.33
1951 47.19 58.35 36.43
1961 55.08 64.89 45.56
1971 69.75 77.13 62.53
1981 70.42 75.26 65.73
1991 89.81 93.62 86.17
2001 90.86 94.24 87.72
The growth of literacy in the state may now be discussed. It is interesting to find out the impact of post-independence educational policies on both the sexes of the population. A cursory look at the figures indicate that at the turn of the 19th century, Kerala had an effective literacy rate of 12.85 percent. The female literacy rate was very poor and was only 3.65% that there was only one female literate for every 6 male literates in the state. The gap in male and female literacy rate continued to persist with minor variation on either side till 1961 census. The 1971 and 1981 censuses have witnessed a steady decline in the disparity and the disparity was less than 10 points. It is significant to note that 95% of the girls in the age group 0-14 had become literate according to 1981 census. About 19% gap in literacy rate has been witnessed during 1981-1991. The 1971 census literacy rate is more than 5 times that of 1901. The effective female literacy rate which was 3.65% in 1901 rose to 36.43% after 50 years and at present it is 87.72%. Within a period of 100 years the female literacy rate has improved about 22 times from that of 1901 literacy rate. The growth of effective literacy rate in the state, especially female literacy rate had given the women of Kerala many positions of responsibility in social and public life.
In 1991 census, the gap in male-female literacy rate has reduced to 7 points. The 7 points gap in male-female literacy rate continues in 2001 census also.
For the purpose of census, a person aged seven and above, who can both read and write with understanding in any language is treated as a literate. A person who can only read but cannot write is not literate. In the census prior to 1991, children below five years of age were treated as illiterates. It was decided at the 1991 census that all children in the age group 0-6 will be treated illiterate by definition and the population aged seven years and above is only to be classified as literate or illiterate. The same criterion has been retained at the 2001 census.
Kerala is ‘the most literate state in the country. The literacy rate, which was 47.18% in 1951, has almost doubled in 2001 census, 90.86%. Mizoram retains the second position in 2001 census as in 1991 with 88.49%.
Year India Kerala Gap between
India and Kerala
1951 18.3 47.18 29
1961 28.30 55.08 27
1971 34.45 69.75 36
1981 43.57 78.85 35
1991 52.21 89.81 38
2001 65.38 90.86 25
The literacy rate of the state in 2001 census is 90.86% for total, 90.04% for rural and 93.19% for urban. In 8 districts viz. Kannur, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Ernakulam, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta and Kollam, the literacy rate is above 90% and is higher than the state average. From the pattern of literacy rate a discernible feature is that the belt comprising of Thrissur, Ernakulam, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta and Kollam districts have high rate of literacy. The districts having dismal picture in this regard are Kasaragod, Wayanad, Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki and Thiruvananthapuram, where the literacy rate is between 84%-90%. It is to be noted that the capital district of Thiruvananthapuram is having literacy rate below 90% and also less than the state average. However, in the urban areas of Thiruvananthapuram district the literacy rate is above 90%. But it is also below the urban average of the state. The district having the highest literacy rate is Kottayam (95.82%) and the lowest is Palakkad (84.35%). Kasargod district is the second lowest in literacy rate (84.57 %) closely followed by the hilly district of Wayanad (85.25%) and Idukki (88.69%). In Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha districts the literacy rate have come down negligibly in 2001 as compared to 1991. In Thiruvananthapuram and Kottayam districts the percentage increase point in literacy rate during 1991- 2001 is very negligible. In all the districts male literacy is higher than the female literacy rate. Statement —16 gives the literacy rate for state/districts of 2001.
Fertility Performance and Literacy Levels
There is significant difference in fertility performance of females of different literacy levels. The literacy levels of females at the times of census can be examined.
In 1961, the various educational levels were primary or junior basic, matriculation or higher secondary, technical diploma not equal to degree, non- technical diploma not equal to degree, University degree or post graduate degree other than technical degree and technical degree or diploma equal to degree or post graduate degree. For total population, the educational level considered were primary or junior basic and matriculation and above.
10.04% of the females had level primary or junior basic education in 1961, followed by 1.84% with matriculation and above. The percentage of females having university degree or post-graduate degree consisted only 0.28% in urban area. Females who were having technical diploma not equal to degree, non-technical diploma not equal to degree and technical degree or diploma equal to degree or post graduate degree accounted for a negligible percentage of 0.12 in urban area.
In 1971 census, the following educational levels were considered: Primary, Middle, Matriculation or Higher Secondary, Non-technical diploma or certificate not equal to degree, Technical diploma or certificate not equal to degree, Graduate and above. The percentages of females having primary education were 23.29% and 8.94% had middle class education. Females with education up to matriculation or higher secondary were 3.59%. As regards graduate and above, females contributed only 0.40%. The percentages of females having technical diploma or certificate not equal to degree and non-technical diploma or certificate not equal to degree were 0.25% and 0.41% respectively.
In 1981 and 1991, the same educational levels as in 1971 were followed. Percentage of females with educational level ‘Primary’ had declined in 1981 to 22.07% and again increased to 23.40% in 1991. In the case of ‘middle level’, there was continuous increase in the percentage of female who had passed Upper Primary. From 8.94% in 1971, it had increased to 16.07% in 1981 and again to 21.99% in 1991. In the case of females having matriculation or higher secondary, reported as educational level, their percentage had increased from 3.59% in 1971 to 7.12% in 1981 and 13.09% in 2001. In comparison to 1971, there was more than three fold increase in the percentage of females with matriculation or higher secondary in 1991. Females with graduation and above had increased from 0.40% in 1971 to 1.05% in 1981 and 2.38% in 1991.
The following statement shows the percentage of females in selected educational level from 1961 to 1991.
Percentage of females in selected educational level from 1961 to 1991.
Census Primary Middle Matriculation or Graduate and
Year Higher Secondary above
1961 10.04 – 1.84 –
1971 23.29 8.94 3.59 0.40
1981 22.07 16.07 7.12 1.05
1991 23.40 21.99 13.09 2.38
In 1961 ‘primary’ corresponds to primary or junior basic and ‘matriculation or higher secondary’ corresponds to matriculation and above. The average number of children per woman is 4.4 and 4.2 and 3.6 respectively among illiterates, literates below middle and middle but below matric. But it is 2.3 among graduates, 2.8 among matric. While 46.1 percent of ever married women among illiterates have 5 children or more, among graduates only 2.4 per cent are having 5 or more children. While 40.5 per cent of literates below middle have 5 children or more only 9.8 per cent of matric and above have 5 children or more. 10.5 percent among illiterates and 11.2 per cent among literates but below middle are with 2 children. But those having 2 children born constitute 29.6 per cent among matriculates and 48.4 per cent among graduates. All these indicate that educated women are controlling births and the higher the educational level, the lesser the fertility.
SHEELA THOMAS: Is the Director, Census operations (Kerala).