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    Reconceiving the impact of population change: a class- and gender-based analysis of ageing in poverty in urban South India

    Vera-Sanso, Penny (2014) Reconceiving the impact of population change: a class- and gender-based analysis of ageing in poverty in urban South India. In: Gooptu, N. and Parry, J. (eds.) Persistence of Poverty in India. New Delhi, India: Orient BlackSwan. ISBN 9789383166046.

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    Abstract

    India is now entering the final stages of transition from a population with high fertility and high mortality to one with low fertility and low mortality – and is doing so in the context of widespread poverty and under-developed social and infrastructural provision. The rapidly growing population of young adults, the accelerating growth of the older population, and the increasing feminization of old age have important and largely unrecognized implications for the economy, for inter-generational transfers, and for the experience of old age that do not conform with the usual accounts of a rising burden of old-age dependency. Yet most academic and policy interest in India’s shifting population structure focuses on the ‘working generation’, defined as 15–60 years, and of these the focus is on the ‘youth’ who, it is thought, could potentially deliver a ‘demographic dividend’ of rapid economic growth. Old age, in these formulations, is seen (if discussed at all) as an uninterrupted period of dependence. By contrast, the argument here is that older people’s paid and unpaid work is needed in order to realize the demographic dividend and to counter the negative consequences of the shift to low fertility and low mortality. Drawing on mixed-methods field work that spanned two decades, this chapter will demonstrate that older people play a key role in reducing family poverty and in supporting economic growth. It explores what demographic transition means for the multiply deprived urban poor by examining its consequences for slum dwellers in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Chennai is one of India’s largest and fastest-growing urban economies and is located in a state with good human-development indicators in comparison with the national average.

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