Demographic transition and COVID-19

Quality research is needed to highlight the demographic aspects of the pandemic
Beneficiaries get a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination drive for 18+ people at Nair hospital, in Mumbai.
Beneficiaries get a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination drive for 18+ people at Nair hospital, in Mumbai. File/ANI

Demographic Transition is the historical shift from high birth rates and high death rates to low birth rates and low death rates in societies with improvements in technology, and economic development.

Basically, Demographic Transition Theory highlights the changes in birth rate and death rate and accordingly the changes in the growth rate of population.

Demographic Transition is a population cycle starting with a decline in the death rate, continues with a stage of rapid growth of population and ends with a decline in the birth rate.

With economic development we witness changes in the relationship between birth rates and death rates and a country necessarily passes through various stages of the growth of population.

The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened the whole world and caught us unprepared. It is a fact that aged people and those with pre-existing health conditions are more exposed to high risks and high deaths from COVID-19. Recent research studies show that economically disadvantaged groups and minority ethnic groups are more prone to COVID-19 deaths.

There is a spatial variation of people with different socio-economic-demographic attributes with reference to COVID-19 pandemic. Their ability to cope, react, recover, and adapt to the virus also shows spatial variation.

There is a need for quality research highlighting the demographic and social aspects of COVID-19 pandemic. Equally important is to understand the process of demographic transition in the course of economic development on one hand and COVID-19 on the other hand.

Prior to Frank W. Notestien, no demographer was in a position to explain the changes in fertility and mortality. In 1945, it was Notestien who gave a theory of demographic transition in its holistic manner explaining changes in fertility. He pointed out that the rapid growth of population during the past three centuries was the result of a dip in the death rate due to modernistion.

By the mid 1930s, throughout the modern western world, birth rates had a downward trend. This decline was seen because of widespread receptivity towards contraception. Three types of population were explained and characterised by Notestien according to their stage of demographic evolution.

The first type of population is the population in the stage of ‘‘incipient decline’’ where births are below the replacement levels. The second type of population is the population in the stage of ‘‘transitional growth’’ where both birth rates and death rates are still high and growth is very fast.

The third type of population is the population in the stage of ‘‘high growth potential’’ death rate is high and variable and at the same time is the main growth factor. Demographic transition process in COVID-19 is characterised by populations in the phase of ‘‘high growth potential’’ where mortality is on rise and variable.

Also, the mortality rate is the chief determinant of growth while the rate of fertility is also high and has so far shown no evidence of downward trend. No doubt in Asian and African countries we had witnessed rapid growth as technical advancements made possible a decline in mortality. But, COVID-19 shock again made an increase in mortality.

All nations in the modern world have moved from a traditional, agrarian-based economic system to a largely industrial, urbanised economic system. Accordingly, nations have also moved from a condition of high death rate and birth rate to low death rate and low birth rate.

But, COVID-19 condition has brought changes in the process of demographic transition in the world. Populations in most countries of Asia and Africa are struggling very hard with demographic changes and COVID-19.

The theory of demographic transition is widely accepted as a useful tool in describing demographic history. Its contribution to the world in general and COVID-19 world in particular is limited. COVID-19 has raised several queries with special reference to demographic transition.

Can the theory of population or theory of demographic transition provide a sound theoretical explanation of the causes of demographic changes with special reference to mortality rate? Is it important in the case of projection? In other words, can we predict the sequence through which developing economies (particularly India) would pass? Such questions give rise to critical evaluation of demographic transition in COVID-19 world.

Dr. Binish Qadri Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Cluster University.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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