Population and Human Development (PHD)

Research relating to the theme of Population and Human Development during the past one year has largely explored the nuances of the experience of human development in the state on the one hand, and issues of access and inequity in health and education, on the other. While health, nutrition and education have been the prime areas of concern within the human development perspective, there have also been attempts to explore the issue across diverse population groups, to examine private-public provisions, and to make a gender-sensitive evaluation. Regarding health, the contribution of research has been more towards understanding inequities in access, and in the utilisation of health care under varying scenarios, and reflecting on their consequences.

Studies this year have explored human development in relation to governance to comment on the role of public action and its corresponding state provision. Also, regional equity in achievement of human development in the state is found to be far better than in other states. However, inequities across communities seem to persist although there are encouraging signs of narrowing down of such inequities over time. Along with the glories of human development on the one hand, the state, on the other hand, is also faced, with the challenge of the growing share of the elderly in its population, and its associated negatives, especially in the quality of life in terms of health and social security. The Centre’s research that has brought out this grim reality has already gained recognition at all levels. Further, this stream of research has added to our knowledge on its various aspects including healthy aging, institutional provision of care for the aged as well as formal social security provision for this vulnerable group. Further research includes an all-Kerala aging survey representing all districts, and an enquiry into the health and life style circumstances of the elderly in this most graying state of India. Findings of such a study will go a long way in providing inputs for policy in designing health and social security programmes aimed at the welfare of the elderly. Studies on this most urgent dimension of social security at the Centre have not only showcased the Kerala situation to the wider audience but also have facilitated cross-country evaluation of the situation in this regard. The focus of such enquiries is on the lessons regarding the institutional provisions of social security to the aged under varied social and economic conditionings.

Studies assessing the education and unemployment scenario in the state focus on the new age concerns regarding differential access and quality in the provision of education and the dynamics of unemployment.The unemployment scene in the state being largely one of educated unemployment, an enquiry into this phenomenon unfolds distinct features. Educated unemployment is found to be greater among women than among males and unemployment among males, in turn, is higher in the emigrant households. A detailed enquiry into this phenomenon of unemployment has pointed out that the lack of suitability for job, rather than unavailability of employment opportunities and inability to remain unemployed to be the major reason for unemployment in the state. Individuals from emigrant households are typically characterised by affordability to remain unemployed. Educated unemployment, therefore, is traced primarily to large-scale emigration taking place from the state. Another clue to educated unemployment in the state is the questionable quality of education in general and higher education in particular. Issues concerning access, quality and equity in education assume relevance in the emerging context of expansion of technical/professional education in the state. Hence, there is an urgent need for educational reform to ensure improvement in the quality of higher education. The phenomenon of educated unemployment is traced also to its linkage with large-scale potential for emigration from the state. Emigration issues have been an enduring area of interest for researchers at CDS, and this theme continues to be actively explored along its diverse dimensions and processes. In order to encourage research relating to the theme of migration, the Government of India has initiated a special Unit for Research on International Migration, which is expected to provide inputs to policy makers. Apart from the extensive research output relating to international migration by the faculty during the past few years, some of the ongoing initiatives include examining emigration in the context of economic development of the state as well as fostering research on international migration on a national scale involving researchers from other research institutes in the country as well as initiating collaborations with research centres outside India engaged in international migration research.

Interest in health research has gained momentum at the Centre in recent years with consistent contributions to policy at the instance of the initiatives by a select group of researchers. In-house expertise and competence in analysis of large-scale survey information along with collaborative research initiatives have led to the recognition of the Centre’s contribution in the field of health research not only in the state, but also at the national level as well. There have been attempts at frontier areas in health research concerning public-private provision, inequities and inequalities in access, utilisation and outcomes in health and nutrition as well as economics of health-related vulnerabilities. The studies have focused on the specific features of health inequalities and made a temporal evaluation, in order to comment on the functioning of the health system in the State. Studies on health inequities do not limit themselves to an assessment of such inequities, but make attempts at reflecting on them in relation to evolving provision of health care, especially, under the changing policy regimes as well as decentralised governance. In one such attempt, it has been shown that decentralisation in the state has reduced some aspects of health inequities.

Apart from these areas of inquiry, there have been initiatives to foster demographic research at CDS, given the presence of considerable trained expertise within its faculty. Such initiatives include encouragement of students to work on topics of empirical research requiring detailed exploration of available large scale survey data sets like those of NSSO and NFHS as well as collaborations to promote research on contemporary concerns in the Indian demographic scene. One such collaboration is initiated with the International Demographic Research Institute (Institut national d’Etudesdemographiques INED), Paris for setting out an India demography research project in the coming years involving researchers from both sides. Significant contributions to demographic research by CDS during the past two decades hold promise for the future, given the proliferation of work under the theme of population, health and human development.

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