Population Composition: Characteristics, Population Pyramid

What is Population Composition?

Population composition is the description of the characteristics of a group of people in terms of factors such as their age, sex, marital status, education, occupation, and relationship to the head of household. Of these, the age and sex composition of any population are most widely used.

In other words, population composition reflects different types of subgroups that exist within the total population of that particular geographical area. It may start from a village/ town, district, state, country, or the world as a whole. Various types of composition represent demographic, social, and economic.

Examples of demographic composition are age and sex composition

Population Characteristics

Following are some important population characteristics:

Age Sex Composition

The age-sex pyramid refers to the composition of the population in terms of the age and sex of people. It gives an indication regarding the growth rate of the population and the nature of the population in terms of working and non-working sections.

As per the census of India 2001, children up to 14 years of age account for 35.3% of the total population. The age group of 15-59 years accounts for 56.9% of the total population and the age group of 60 years and above for 7.4% of the population. The age structure has been undergoing some gradual changes during the recent decades.

For Example, the population in the age cohort 15-59, 15- 64, or 18-64 tells us about the potential population that can be economically active in terms of participation in the labor market as workers whereas populations below and above these ages are likely to be looked after as dependent. Men and women, boys and girls differ in terms of their share in age structure.

For Example, in general, women outnumber men in old ages and their widowed status puts them in vulnerable conditions. In some countries, there are more boys than can be accounted for naturally as compared to girls hinting at preferential treatment of boys.

Sex Ratio

The sex ratio can be defined as is a simple count of the number of males and females in the population. The overall sex ratio and the temporal changes that occur therein tell us about underlying socio-economic processes as also how the males and females are being treated in a society at a given point in time.

In most of the countries, the world over, sex ratios are indicated in terms of males vs. females for a standard unit of population, usually 100 persons. The way to calculate the ratio is:

Number of Males ÷ Number of Females × 100

Some countries such as India, however, calculate the ratio of females per 1000 males. In such a case it is

Number of Males ÷ Number of Females × 1000

Sex ratios can be obtained for the population as a whole, and specific age groups such as the working-age population and so on.

Overall sex ratios get affected by a complex intermixing of various factors. Let us discuss some of the factors in brief.

  • Male selective out-migration in a given region may result in a sex ratio whereby women may outnumber men in a given region and vice versa if there is male in-migration.
  • Differential mortality rates for females likewise can tilt the sex ratios in favour of males.

Dependency Ratio and Ageing

The definition of dependent population varies across the countries. It can be conceived as below 15 and above 60 years of age, as is a common practice in India. Alternatively, given the long years that people live now and as per the country’s specifications regarding who is considered as a youth.

the dependent population can be below 15 and above 65 years of age. In some cases, the dependent population is seen as consisting of those below 18 and above 65 years of age.

The age-dependency ratio is calculated as the ratio of the dependent population to the working population whichever way the working population is defined. These ratios are presented as the number of dependants per 100 persons.

Demographic Dividend

The demographic dividend occurs when a falling birth rate changes the age distribution,1 so that fewer investments are needed to meet the needs of the youngest age groups, and resources are released for investment in economic development and family welfare.

The demographic dividend is economic growth brought on by a change in the structure of a country’s population, usually a result of a fall in fertility and mortality rates. The demographic dividend comes as there’s an increase in the working population’s productivity, which boosts per capita income.

Population Pyramid

Age and sex structure can be graphically illustrated by showing the distribution of various age groups by sex, commonly known as population pyramids. A population pyramid is used to show the age-sex structure of the population.

Population pyramids are of three types namely progressive, regressive, and stationary. Let us explain each type of pyramid and age-sex characteristics associated with it:

Stationary Population

The word stationary refers to a condition that is not changing. In this context, this means unchanging fertility and mortality rates over a long period of time that produces a regularly tapering pyramid. A stationary population is a special example of a stable population with a zero growth rate, neither growing nor shrinking in size and is equivalent to a life table population.

By definition, stable populations have age-specific fertility and mortality rates that remain constant over time.

Progressive Population

Progressive Population kind of situation is observed in a country where increasing birth rate and the high death rate is prevalent. As a result of which this demographic trend when plotted in a graph, it produces a wide base and rapidly tapering pyramid. This gives a concave look to the diagram if we join the outermost point of each bar.

Regressive Population

The regressive population is just opposite to what we described in the progressive population. Can you be able to describe what a regressive population is? This refers to a situation where a declining birth rate and the low mortality rate are being observed.

This produces a narrow-based pyramid. This gives a concave look to the diagram if we join the outermost point of each bar.

Literacy and Skill Formation

Literacy is generally defined as a person’s ability to read, write, and able to understand as well as do some simple calculation. Today, it has been acknowledged that being mere literate would not help much. If we want to take advantage of the knowledge economy then we have to move from literacy to skill formation.

In this section, we will discuss both literacy and skill formation both at the global as well as national levels:

How to improve the literacy rate

The world’s most literate country in the world is Finland. We can try to see and why their education system is really successful. In Finland, parents play a central role in children’s emergent literacy development. They are the first teachers and shape children’s language and communication abilities and attitudes to reading by being good reading role models, providing reading materials, and reading to the child.

After the children enter school age, the next line of the literate environment is school. Schools may foster reading motivation and read for pleasure in many ways. But the support of parents is still needed, parents need to give strong motivation. Adolescence is a crucial phase in life where young people develop long-term identities and self-concepts related to reading and media use.

Public libraries are an important agent in reading promotion. Schools and libraries have a long tradition of collaboration in Finland. The library service needs to be high quality and meet the needs of its people.

The library staff also need to have in-depth training to provide guidance information searching and management to students. Libraries need to offer various materials, for they wish to serve everybody in their area. Not just printed books, libraries also need to offer other media like video and non-printed stuff.

Benefits of Literacy

Improved literacy can contribute to economic growth; reduce poverty; reduce crime; promote democracy; increase civic engagement; prevent HIV/AIDS and other diseases through information provision; enhance cultural diversity through literacy programs in minority languages.

Lead to lower birth rates as a result of increased education; and confer personal benefits such as increased self-esteem, confidence, and empowerment. However, the benefits of literacy ensure only when broader rights and development frameworks are in place and operating effectively.


What is Population Composition?

Population composition is the description of the characteristics of a group of people in terms of factors such as their age, sex, marital status, education, occupation, and relationship to the head of household. Of these, the age and sex composition of any population are most widely used.

What are the 3 types of population pyramids?

Population pyramids are of three types namely: 1. Stationary Population, 2. Progressive Population, 3. Regressive Population.

What are the 5 characteristics of population?

Following are some important population characteristics:
1. Age Sex Composition
2. Sex Ratio
3. Dependency Ratio and Ageing
4. Demographic Dividend

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