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Demographic Shifts in India’s Religious Composition


A recent analysis by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (PM-EAC) reveals that between 1950 and 2015, the percentage of Hindus in India has decreased by 7.82%. Conversely, the percentages of Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs have shown an upward trend during the same period, highlighting significant demographic shifts in India’s religious composition over time.


GS I: Population and Associated issues

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Findings of the PM-EAC Report
  2. Demographic Patterns and Their Relevance

Key Findings of the PM-EAC Report:

Global Trends:

  • In 38 OECD countries surveyed from 1950 to 2015, 30 experienced a significant decrease in the proportion of Roman Catholics, the predominant religious group.
  • The majority religious population declined globally by an average of 22% from 1950 to 2015.
  • OECD countries saw a steeper decline, with an average reduction of 29% in majority religious populations.
  • In Africa, animism or native religion, which was dominant in 24 countries in 1950, lost its majority status by 2015.

South Asian Region:

  • Majority religious groups are increasing in countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Afghanistan, while minority populations have significantly declined.

Findings for India:

  • The Hindu population in India declined by 7.82% according to the 2011 census, accounting for approximately 79.8% of the population.
  • The Muslim population increased from 9.84% to 14.095%, and the Christian population increased from 2.24% to 2.36%.
  • Sikh population rose from 1.24% to 1.85%, and the Buddhist population increased from 0.05% to 0.81%.
  • The Jain and Parsi community populations decreased, with the share of Jains dropping from 0.45% to 0.36%, and the Parsi population declining by 85% from 0.03% to 0.0004%.

Total Fertility Rate (TFR) Trends:

  • India’s TFR is currently around 2, close to the preferred TFR of 2.19, indicating a reliable indicator for projecting population growth.
  • TFR for Hindus decreased from 3.3 in 1991 to 1.9 in 2024, while for Muslims, it declined from 4.4 in 1991 to 2.4 in 2024.

Social Equality in India:

  • Despite global demographic shifts, minorities in India experience equal benefits and live comfortable lives.

Demographic Patterns and Their Relevance:

Definition and Scope:

  • Demographic patterns refer to systematic variations and trends observed in human populations.
  • These patterns emerge from the study of population dynamics, including birth rates, death rates, migration, and population composition.


  • Predicting Population Trends: Demographic data helps predict population growth or decline by studying birth and death rates over time.
  • Planning and Resource Allocation: Crucial for planning infrastructure, healthcare, education, and social services based on population needs.

Understanding Population Changes:

  • Identifying Factors: Investigates the causes behind population changes, such as economic development, education, healthcare, and cultural norms.
  • Consequences Analysis: Examines workforce dynamics, dependency ratios, and implications for social security systems.
Policy Formulation and Implementation:
  • Healthcare: Age-specific health needs are understood to allocate resources effectively and provide appropriate healthcare services.
  • Education: Demographics guide educational planning, including the provision of school infrastructure and teacher recruitment.
  • Urban Planning: Population distribution influences city infrastructure, housing, and transportation planning.
  • Ageing Population: Policies are developed to address the needs of elderly citizens, including pensions, healthcare, and social support systems.

-Source: The Hindu

May 2024