Kolkata: With time the city of joy seems to be graying faster compared to other metros in India. However the talk is not about the decaying centuries old buildings in the city but is about the inhabitants.
While other cities are growing younger Kolkata’s 60 plus population is the largest in the country. What’s worse, the proportion of 20-year-olds – the biggest population segment across all metros – is alarmingly low in Kolkata.
The significantly low ratio of youngsters might indicate that more and more of them are heading out to other cities for jobs and education. On the other hand, Kolkata has the highest percentage of the 30-59 years – employed – category.
Economist Aviroop Sarkar finds this an “interesting trend”. “On one hand, the 20-29 year populace is less (than other metros), while the 30-59 years populace is more. The former is the student group and the other the working group. Given the data, it would be wrong to generalize that people are leaving Kolkata for jobs. Perhaps, younger people are stepping out of Kolkata for education but that is it,” he said, pointing out that Kolkata has been a laggard in setting up private engineering and medical colleges. “That, perhaps, defines this trend,” he said.
The latest five-year age-group analysis of the 2011 Census reveals that as much as 54.44% of its 4.5 million population (KMC area) is above 30 years, much more than the Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore or Chennai municipal limits.
Economists split the 30-plus segment into 30-59 years – the in-job segment – and above 60 years. Apart from Chennai (51.11%), the above-30 segment doesn’t account for half the city’s population in any other metro.
On the other hand, people in the 20-24 age-group and 25-29 age-group account for a low 8.9% and 9.03% of Kolkata’s population. This is significant because is the 20s segment that is the powerhouse in other metros and is increasingly proving to be a deciding factor in elections.
This compares with the dip in fertility rate in the last few decades – Bengal is at the bottom with a fertility rate of 1.6 while the national average stands at 2.3. The 2011 Census has already shown that Kolkata’s total fertility rate (TFR) – the number of children per woman – has plummeted to 1.2, the lowest in India. Kolkata, in fact, has a negative growth rate of minus 1.67%.
Kolkata is beginning to look like European cities where falling fertility levels and longer lives turn them into cities of the aged.
Jadavpur University economist Amit Kundu is clear about laying more emphasis on the 30-59 age-group. “This is the working age-group. These days, the average age to get a job is slightly more than what it was earlier. As long as this indicator is stable, I think we are doing well. My only concern is the much-larger 60-plus age-group,” Kundu said.