Generally, population means a collection of people living in a given geographic area or territory. This is how it is used in the census. The collection of people is seen and understood primarily in terms of number. But population is also considered as a resource, a human resource.

Human Capital: Over the years, the terms used to describe staff and employees in businesses have changed. We have moved from ‘personnel’ to ‘human resources’ to ‘human capital’. Human capital represents attributes of a person that are productive in the economic context. It refers to the stock of productive skills and technical knowledge embodied in labour.

Census: The procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. The term is used mostly in connection with ‘national population and door to door censuses’ to be taken every 10 years. The Government of India, with the assistance of States, has been conducting census to collect data about various demographic and socio-economic aspects of our population.

Factors making population a Human Resource

There are key socio-demographic factors that have significant impact on the role of population as a resource. These are:

  1. Distribution of Population
  2. Growth of Population
  3. Population Composition

1. Distribution of Population

Resources, whether natural or any other, are not evenly distributed. For example, natural resources like forests or iron ore or coal are not found evenly in the world and also within our own country. The same is the case with human resources. They are not evenly spread everywhere in the world and their numbers keep on changing. The spread of population over an area, may be in a state or the entire country, is known as the distribution of population.

Density of Population

The density of population is the number of persons living per unit of an area. It is usually expressed as number of people per square kilometre (sq km). For determining the density, the number of people living in a specific territory is divided by the total area of that territory. This provides an average number of persons living per sq km in the territory.

Factors affecting distribution and density of population

It is human nature that people like to live in the areas where resources are easily available. These resources may be fresh water, fertile soil, food and shelter, opportunities of work and others. The availability of these resources is influenced by geographical features which cause uneven distribution. Therefore, density and distribution of population are also uneven.

The factors which affect distribution and density of population can be divided into two broad categories: Physical and Socio-economic.

A. Physical Factors

Three important physical factors influence the distribution and density of population, namely relief, climate and soil.

(i) Relief: The mountains are less populated than the plains. Relief represents the differences in elevation and slope between the higher and lower parts of the land surface of a given area. It directly affects the accessibility of the area. The areas, which are easily accessible, are most likely to be inhabited by people. That is why, the plains are densely populated and areas of rugged relief like mountains and plateaus are not.

(ii) Climate: Climatic condition is one of the most important factors which affects density and distribution of population. Favourable climate provides convenient living conditions for human beings. The higher density of population is found in the areas where the climate is favorable. But areas with harsh climate, i.e., areas that are too hot, too cold, too dry or too wet have lower density of population.

In India, the area having dry climate such as Rajasthan and the areas with extreme cold climate such as the Valley in Jammu and Kashmir, or Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have low density of population.

(iii) Soil: Human beings depend upon the quality of soil for agriculture. Areas of fertile soil can support larger population. That is why, the regions of fertile soil such as the alluvial plains of North India and coastal plains have higher density of population. On the other hand, the areas with less fertile soils like parts of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have lower density of population.

B. Socio-economic Factors

The density and distribution of population also depend on the following socioeconomic conditions of the area:

(i) Industrialisation and Urbanisation: Large number of people reside in the area having industries. They also prefer to live in the urban areas, towns and cities. The areas which are rich in mineral resources also attract large population.

The mining areas in Jharkhand are very densely populated. This is so because these areas support several economic activities and offer lots of employment opportunities. Moreover, the education and health facilities are better in these areas. All large cities of India like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and many more have high density of population.

(ii) Transport and Communication: Some parts of the country have better transport and communication facilities and other public utility services than the other parts. Areas of northern plain are very well connected, whereas north eastern areas have comparatively poor connectivity. All such areas where the public facilities are well developed have a comparatively higher density of population. The places of cultural and religious significance are also densely populated.

All the factors operate in combination. For example, the high density population in the Ganga plain. It is caused by a combination of factors: level land, fertile soils, a favorable climate, industrialisation and urbanisation, and comparatively well developed means of transport and communication. On the other hand, factors like rugged hilly terrain, unfavorable climate, poor means of transport and communication together cause low density of population in areas like those in Arunachal Pradesh.

2. Growth of Population

The quality of population as a human resource in any country is greatly influenced by the pattern of population change. The change can be in terms of population growth or population negative growth. Although the population of the world is still growing, there are countries where it is declining. Both the situations of population change have their impact on the quality of human resources.

If population grows at a faster rate, it results into an imbalance between population growth and resources of a country. This situation has an adverse impact on the quality of human resources.

The Indian population has been growing since long. From a population of 238 millions in the year 1901, it increased to 1028 millions in 2001 and is still growing. This increase in population is more than four times within a span of a century. On the other hand there are countries in Western Europe where population is declining.

Factors of Growth of Population

Population of any country increases or decreases because of three main demographic factors:

  1. Birth rate
  2. Death rate
  3. Migration

A number of socio-economic factors also influence birth rate and death rate which ultimately affect population change. In India, the main reason for rapid increase in population is high birth rate and low death rate. The migration as a factor has rather negligible influence on population growth at the national level. However, it has influence at local and regional level.

Birth Rate: The number of births per thousand of population in a given year under a particular territory is called Crude Birth Rate (popularly known as birth rate). Suppose in a district, the total live births are 800 in a year and its mid-year population is 25,000. So,

Birth Rate = 800/25,000 × 1000 = 32 per thousand of population

Death Rate: The number of deaths per thousand of population in a given year under a particular territory is called Crude Death Rate (popularly known as death rate). Suppose in a district, the total deaths are 600 in a year and its mid-year population is 25000. So,

Death Rate = 600/25,000 × 1000 = 24 per thousand of population

Natural Growth Rate: Natural growth rate is the difference between birth rate and death rate. Suppose the birth rate of a particular year within an area is 32 and death rate is 24. Therefore, natural growth rate is 32 – 24 = 8 per thousand of population.

From the beginning of the 20th century, the population of India has been increasing in absolute numbers except during 1921 when there was a decline in absolute number. After 1921, there has been a continuous rising trend. That is why, the census year of 1921 is called the year of "The great divide" in the demographic history of India.

The reasons for the fast rate of population growth in India are illiteracy and low level of education, unsatisfactory health and nutritional status and poverty. There are some other crucial socio-cultural factors like preference for male child, early marriage, religious beliefs and low status of women.

3. Population Composition

The net effect of the difference between birth rate and death rate determines the pace and trend of population change. This net effect also demonstrates the composition of population which is an important factor influencing not only the pace of population growth but also the quality of population as a human resource.

Population composition is the description of population defined by characteristics such as age, sex, rural-urban or literacy status.

  1. Age composition
  2. Sex composition
  3. Rural-urban composition
  4. Literacy

(i) Age Composition

The age composition of population has significant implications for the current and future development of a country. Population has been traditionally divided into three broad age groups: children (0-14 years), adults (15-60 years) and old (more than 60 years).

Population of the old and children put together constitutes the dependent population. When the number of dependent population increases, the dependency ratio goes up. As a result, the country has to invest more on the growth and development of children and welfare of the old people; otherwise the same resources can be used for other productive purposes.

(ii) Sex Composition

Sex composition is a very significant indicator of the quality of population of a country as a human resource. Primarily it is understood on the basis of sex ratio. Sex ratio is defined as the number of females per 1000 males. It is an important social indicator to measure the extent of prevailing equity between males and females at a given point of time.

Sex ratio should be favourable. But in India, sex ratio has always remained unfavorable to females. It has been declining. In the year 1901, there were 972 females per 1000 males. In 2001, it has come down to 933 only. It is primarily because of the prevailing discrimination against the females in our society. The favourable sex ratio is available only in one State and one Union Territory. It is 1058 in Kerala and 1001 in Puducherry.

(iii) Rural-urban Composition

India has been a land of farmers and a country of villages. At the beginning of the twentieth century nine out of ten persons used to live in villages. More than three-fourths of our population still lives in rural areas. The urban area in India is defined as one, in which three-fourth of the population depends directly or indirectly on non-agricultural pursuits, with a minimum of 5000 population and the density being not less than 400 persons per sq. km and should have municipality town area or Municipal Corporation.

(iv) Literacy

Literacy is an indicator of development of any society. As defined in the Census Report, ‘a person aged seven and above, who can both read and write with understanding in any language is treated as literate’. Literacy rate in India was 18.33 percent in 1951. It has increased to 65.37 percent in 2001.

Among various states of our country, Kerala has the highest literacy (90.86 percent) followed by Mizoram (88.49 percent) and Lakshdweep (87.52 percent). But the literacy rate, in general, is lower among females as compared to males.