Population Trends Paint a Gloomy Picture for Sri Lanka – Includes Excerpts from a UN Publication
Posted on September 16th, 2011

Dilrook Kannangara

SavingSri Lankais about saving its entirety including its multicultural balance. Any chronic imbalance leads to disastrous outcomes and makes the nation vulnerable to be an extension of western-backed, Indian or middle eastern expansionism. The foregoing factual analysis is based on an article published in the Asia-Pacific Population Journal, September 2001 which appeared in United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) under the heading ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Fertility Decline in Sri Lanka: Are All Ethnic Groups Party to the Process?ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚.

It was conducted and published by P Puvanarajan, Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography and W Indralal De Silva, Professor and Head, Department of Demography,UniversityofColombo,Colombo,Sri Lanka.

http://www.unescap.org/esid/psis/population/journal/Articles/2001/V16N3A2.pdf

This articles looks at facts and figures contained therein in the context of wider national and economic realities.

It is not about blame but about identifying areas of proactive government policy participation that will saveSri Lankaas a multicultural nation with ethnic harmony and balance. It is also about savingSri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s non aligned policy, democracy, equal rights for women, relatively high human development index, national and geopolitical interests and the national economy. Invariably it is also tied to saving a small unique ethnic group in the world, namely the Sinhalese, their highly unique language and culture, and their very long prosperous history.

Analysis of Fertility Trends

Fertility trends foretell the composition of the nation in a relatively peaceful atmosphere. It is a yardstick to measure social stability and balance or otherwise. It is about the future. Past trends will be discussed in a separate paragraph. The following averages fertility rates have been calculated for the four main ethnic groups from the data given on page 34Asia-Pacific Population Journal, Vol. 16, No. 3. Refer appendix for data tables.

http://www.unescap.org/esid/psis/population/journal/Articles/2001/V16N3A2.pdf

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

Sri Lanka

2.18

2.18

2.15

2.09

1.97

Sinhalese

2.09

2.10

2.07

1.97

1.88

Sri Lankan Tamils

2.37

2.40

2.42

2.50

2.19

Sri Lankan Moors

2.46

2.46

2.43

2.39

2.28

Indian Tamils

2.28

2.16

2.13

2.17

1.94

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

All ethnic groups show a decline in average birth rates from 1992 to 1996. It is obvious from the above table the relative birth rate of Sinhalese is lower than the Sri Lankan average for all these representative years. It is not a one-off occurrence as can be seen from the above. It is a trend repeated for five years consistently and is continuing. Based on above averages, rankings of each ethnic group can be summarised as below.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

Sinhalese

4

4

4

4

4

Sri Lankan Tamils

2

2

2

1

2

Sri Lankan Moors

1

1

1

2

1

Indian Tamils

3

3

3

3

3

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

Sinhalese are at the bottom of the pile in birth rates while Sri Lankan Tamils and Moors have recorded the highest birth rate. In addition they show the lowest decline in fertility over the years.

Sudden upsurge in fertility among Sri Lankan Tamils in 1995 can be attributed to the relative peaceful atmosphere in 1994/95.

Disparity in birth rates will reflect in the ethnic composition of the population within a generation which is about 20-30 years. At this rate Sinhalese will not be 74% of the population in 20-30 years time. Averages of the above five years can be used to calculate the ethnic composition trend in future years assuming the continuation of this pattern. Average birth rates by the number of children born per family for Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Muslims and Tamils of recent Indian origin for the entire period from 1992 to 1996 are 2.02, 2.38, 2.40 and 2.13 respectively. (Refer appendix for calculations). In other words, Sri Lankan Tamils have a higher relative birth rate – 18% higher than Sinhalese (2.38/2.02); Muslim birth rate is 19% higher than the Sinhalese (2.40/2.02) and 6% higher in the case of Indian Tamils (2.13/2.02).

At the current birth rates, the Sinhalese population percentage which now stands at 74% will reduce at approximately 3% every generation initially and if the trend continues further, the 3% will progressively worsen.

Apart from natural population growth rates, there are other contributing factors that affect the ethnic composition of the island nation. Illegal immigration is one main determinant among them. Tamils migrate from South India while people following the Islam faith migrate from South India,Malaysia, theMaldivesandPakistan. However, Sinhalese do not have any inward migrants adding to the community. In other words, the current trend is further worsened by illegal immigration.

Further Evidence of Gloom

According to the Department of Census and Statistics and the provisional censuses carried out in the north and the east, Sinhalese population percentage in almost all the districts, excluding just five districts, has fallen from 1981 to 2001. These districts areColombo, Gampaha, Kalutara,Kandy, Nuwara Eliya,Galle, Matara, Hambantota,Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kurunegala, Puttlam, Kegalle, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Vavuniya,Jaffna, Mulaitivu, Kilinochchi and Mannar. In other words, Sinhalese population percentage has reduced in 20 out of 25 districts compared to other ethnic groups! This is a very grave situation needing urgent remedial action from policy makers.Jaffna, Mulaitivu, Kilinochchi and Batticaloa districts record almost a 100% reduction while Puttlam shows a staggering 8.5% drop. This is mainly due to LTTE displacement of Muslims in 1990 who were settled in Puttlam area.

Coupled with the already existing population trends, the drop in fertility among the Sinhalese foretells a very ominous future for the island nation.

WarƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s end has stopped needless deaths which is a noble achievement. War killed more Sri Lankan Tamils proportionately than any other community. Large scale emigration during the war is also not seen today. These factors amplify the discrepancies in relative population growth and threats to ethnic balance. Especially the Sri Lankan Tamil community will rapidly expand from where it stands now.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

Defence Implications

A number of observers around the world have observed how national population growth and relative population growth affect national security.Russiais an example of very low population density and a negative population growth. Russian military strategists have taken this fact into account in formulating their defence strategy. Encouraging people to have more children is also pursued as a remedy.

In the local context, over 95% of security forces personnel are ethnic Sinhalese. Attempts to encourage more and more non-Sinhalese into the armed forces failed due to a number of reasons and these are not likely to change in the short to medium term. One main reason for the war to run into decades was the lack of numbers of security forces personnel. Along with the increase in population, security apparatus should be modernised. Lower population growth among Sinhalese has a tragic impact on national security.

National policy makers must take this into account and rectify the situation before it is too late.

Improving the Economic Clout of Sinhalese Key to Resolving the Problem

Economic reasons affect in two ways. Low income earners join queues to get money and undergo irreversible family planning procedures. If not they abstain from producing children. Only economic improvements of the community can ensure they are not affected by both forms of lowering fertility. Nationalised entities provided employment and economic advantages to the people of this country. However, they failed economically due to mismanagement. Privatised previously state owned entities on the other hand donƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t provide enough jobs to the majority and take away the profits generated. A compromise is needed between these two extremes to uplift the relative economic clout of the majority.

State investments in commercial ventures managed commercially can provide both employment and economic benefits to the masses. Current upsurge in Indian investments can be successfully countered by state investments in the areas they operate. It can save billions of rupees from leaving the country which can be reinvested.

Import industries are dominated mostly by unscrupulous traders earning huge profits at the expense of helpless consumers and the state. Today the state has become a slave to these manipulators who determine what the inflation rate should be. State investments can shift the economic imbalance in import industries.

Some hastily privatised entities hold huge economic potential. Initially privatised entities were making lucrative returns. These industries should be restarted under a capitalist model of managing for returns.

The need for an entrepreneurial university is felt very badly today. Such a university should branch out across the country. Access to capital through state commercial banks and development banks should be eased to entrepreneurs. New agricultural practices should be introduced. State participation is needed in linking the farmer and the consumer. Private entrepreneurship among Sinhalese must be raised by targeted schemes.

A more equitable university entrance system should be introduced that is fair across all ethnic groups. At least 74% of the doctors, teachers, etc. must be able to fluently communicate in Sinhala which means 74% of university students must be Sinhalese. That is from the recipient point of view. From the financing point of view, approximately 74% of taxpayers are Sinhalese and an equal share of the free education system must go back to them. At present the university system produces professionals in widely disparate numbers both from a society needs point of view and a taxpayer return point of view. No wonder the money invested are not returning enough for the taxpayers.

The current GS, PS, UC, MC, provincial council, parliamentary and presidential governance structure places a very heavy burden on the people without any return. Sri Lankans are over-governed. Provincial councils have not added any benefit to the people apart from complications. Compared to the time before PCs and time after PCs, there has not been any visible benefit of PCs. Their recurrent cost exceeds 100 billion rupees every year and there is no return to taxpayers! Scrapping PCs can inject over 100 billion rupees into the economy every year. By any standard this is a huge sum of money. It can be used for state investments. May be the whole point of the pointless provincial councils system forced upon Lanka was to tie down the national economy with a tremendous annual burden.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the following quoted from the above UN publication sums up the dangerous situation the country is heading into. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-However, among all the ethnic groups inSri Lankathere are pockets of population where a significantly higher level of fertility could be identified that may contribute to the concern among the other ethnic groups over high fertility behaviour and the consequent effect on the prevalent ethnic balance. Therefore, it is important from a policy point of view to identify such pockets of relatively high fertility performance and implement specially designed family planning activities suitable for such cultures in order to complement and strengthen acceptance of ongoing social change. This would be a step in the right direction as it would allay any misconceptions and concern among ethnic groups, which could be an impediment to ethnic harmony in the country.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

During LTTE activity, family planning initiatives could not be carried out in Vanni. These activities must commence forthwith. Certain other groups, due to religious reasons, donƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t allow family planning. They must be motivated by economic pressures to follow suit. A disproportionately larger economic clout pushes the fertility of these groups beyond what is balanced within the national context.

In addition, the comparative economic clout of the Sinhalese community must be raised within the framework of the open economy. Safeguarding the harmonious ethnic balance is a must to maintain peace not only in the island but also in the region. Given closer ties various ethnic groups have with powerful regional countries, it is in the best interests of other regional powers to invest in maintaining the current ethnic composition. It may provide strategic reasons and financial support to safeguardSri Lankaas it is, without pushing it to the lap of eitherIndiaor the middle-east which will be worrisome to most powers around the world. Certain changes in the ethnic composition of the island will surely turn it into a major battle ground betweenIndiaand its adversaries. SurelyIndiawill not tolerate anotherKashmirin its southern border. At the same time other powers in the region will not tolerate another Indian satellite in the region. As can be seen the world over, these battles are far worse and chronic than any war inSri Lanka. Therefore it is in the best interests of all to maintain the harmonious ethnic balance of the island nation.

Appendix

Percentage distribution of births by birth order and ethnic group, 1992-1996

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  First Second Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Seventh and over

1992

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 
Sri Lanka

39.72

28.57

16.88

8.43

3.46

1.65

1.3

Sinhalese

42.06

28.91

15.95

7.35

3.21

1.43

1.09

Sri Lankan Tamils

32.96

28.41

19.03

12.44

3.78

1.91

1.47

Sri Lankan Moors

34.72

25.44

18.66

10.45

4.9

3.05

2.79

Indian Tamils

33.07

30.22

21.57

9.47

3.32

1.38

0.97

1993

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 
Sri Lanka

39.25

28.81

17.13

8.32

3.66

1.54

1.29

Sinhalese

40.88

29.28

17.02

7.41

3.12

1.31

0.98

Sri Lankan Tamils

35.1

26.52

16.66

12.29

5.6

1.99

1.84

Sri Lankan Moors

34.31

26.52

17.75

10.25

5.44

2.81

2.93

Indian Tamils

35.61

32.78

19.64

7.04

2.96

1.16

0.79

1994

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 
Sri Lanka

40.9

27.93

16.81

7.85

3.64

1.63

1.24

Sinhalese

42.56

28.74

16.5

6.96

3.03

1.31

0.89

Sri Lankan Tamils

36.78

24.34

16.7

11.46

5.94

2.6

2.18

Sri Lankan Moors

35.83

25.58

18.77

9.82

5.3

2.75

2.55

Indian Tamils

37.97

30.81

19.29

6.91

2.91

1.27

0.84

1995

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 
Sri Lanka

42.75

27.94

16.28

7.18

3.17

1.45

1.24

Sinhalese

45.48

28.78

15.59

5.99

2.4

1.03

0.73

Sri Lankan Tamils

34.38

25.02

17.45

11.53

5.54

3.03

3.05

Sri Lankan Moors

35.63

25.82

19.09

9.66

4.89

2.52

2.39

Indian Tamils

40.04

27.99

17.32

7.69

4.4

1.19

1.36

1996

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 
Sri Lanka

45.85

28.79

14.73

6.25

2.46

1.06

0.86

Sinhalese

48.19

29.38

14.1

5.08

1.84

0.79

0.62

Sri Lankan Tamils

40.33

27.81

14.91

10.28

3.9

1.56

1.21

Sri Lankan Moors

37.39

26.13

18.32

9.32

4.6

1.4

2.05

Indian Tamils

46.58

28.91

15.49

4.9

2.42

1.02

0.69

Source: Various reports of the Registrar GeneralƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Department and the Department of Census andStatistics,Sri Lanka.

Crude Birth Rate = Sum of [Birth order x Percentage for each birth order]

(Views are of the writerƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s based on factual accounts mentioned herein).

13 Responses to “Population Trends Paint a Gloomy Picture for Sri Lanka – Includes Excerpts from a UN Publication”

  1. mjaya Says:

    Its time to stop the “punchi pawula raththaran” concept. A concept deliberately targeting the Sinhalese. Even today NGOs target the Sinhalese and encourage minorities to have more children.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    This is SHOCKING!

    While racists extort their cooked up grievances, they plot to destroy the rest.

    Government should stop entertaining Tamil cooked up grievances and start addressing Sinhala grievances.

    Hats off to the genuine Tamil gentleman who conducted the FP research.

  3. Samson Says:

    We all knew this all these years but nothing happened.

    Government should step in.

    There is a child assistance program to assist army families raise children. Good to expand it.

    War is no more. Tamil population will skyrocket.

  4. sena Says:

    Apart from falling fertility the extent of mal or under nutrition is also highest among Sinhalese. This may be due to the prevalence of poverty which also contribute to low birth rate (as the writer points out). One observation worth checking out is there was an apparent steep drop in number of kids per family among middle class and rural masses after 1977 with the new economic policies brought on by JR which drastically increased living costs for the above two groups. Another fact is within Sinhalese community there is no consensus or desire among leaders and well to do to help the community through volunteer and social organizations to uplift the condition of poor. The situation is same with religious organizations where very few priests have interest or awareness of these matters. There is also a disconnect or aversion between those in the cities and villages where the city folks would rater see poor stay that way for their own benefits like cheap labor. The well to do members of the community, its leaders, priests and expatriates should come together to set up programs to provide material assistance and know how to help people improve their living conditions and future progress.

  5. May182009 Says:

    I agree with Sena. I have seen it happening.

    There is a disagreeing point I want to make in the original article.

    In the last para the author correctly says the dangers of Sri Lanka becoming another Pakistan like or India like state. But if it happens or come close to happening, I think Sinhalas will team up with any external power to stop it.

  6. Ben_silva Says:

    my view is that population growth has to be taken seriously as it will have demands on hospitals, schools, road, energy use and other implications. Perhaps limit the nmber of Children to two. The decline of the Sinhalese need to be arrested.
    Good article by Dilrook.

  7. love_lanka Says:

    Friends!

    More than Tamils we need worry about Muslims in Sri Lanka. Tamils will take long to recover from the war.

    Muslim population growth is the highest in Lanka and one day they will try to convert our Lanka to “Sharia Sri Lanka”.

    The recent destruction of the Mosque by our monks in Anuradhapura is act that reflects that fear.

  8. ranjith Says:

    love_lanka,

    We should praise our monks who have razed the mosque to the ground using the competitive skills prescribed by Ben Silva.

    Tamils have already recovered fast as they can, through Tamil diaspora’s continuous support after the war.

    Blacko insisted to keep Tamil Police in N & E on his recent visit.

    In next visit, Blacko will order SLG, to remove all the Security Forces out of N & E.

    Then, Tamil terro sympathizer, like love lanka will be pleased.

  9. Fran Diaz Says:

    I Family Planning is to be done, everyone in Sri Lanka ought to do it. Is Family Planning confined to the Sinhala/Buddhist
    sector ?

  10. Ben_silva Says:

    In my view, family planning is a must and every one has to be involved and enforced as in China.
    Further, reasons for the decline of the Sinhalese also need to be investigated. Learn from Indians and Chinese and dump religion that cloud our mind, Evidence is that Buddhism has lead to the premature loss of life of the followers of Buddhism in many countries and the beheading of Buddhist monks in Maldives. Sri Lanka survived due to native wisdom and not due to Buddhism.

  11. KingSasanka Says:

    My only fear is not other ethnic & religious groups over taking us, the so-called “SINHALA BUDHISTS” but militancy taking over the Buddhism.

    http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2011/03/30/is-there-any-attire-prescribed-as-the-suitable-attire-to-be-worn-to-a-place-of-worship/

    Isn’t it funny that those who do not live by the very teaching want to defend the very same doctrine?

    Sasanka De Silva.

  12. mjaya Says:

    Oh Ben you again. Your conclusion that “Buddhism will lead to decline” is like the story of the flea. Whatever the topic you somehow come to this conclusion. You are simply blinded (doubtful) or have a hidden agenda (highly likely).

    “Learn from Indians and Chinese and dump religion that cloud our mind,” what a statement. In fact the Indians are MORE RELIGIOUS. Just see how they enforce the caste system against untouchables and see how they behave in ceremonies in the Ganges. You are pathetic! Also the Chinese are extremely superstitious – isn’t superstition another form of clouding our mind?

    Dogs can bark but mountains will not topple.

  13. Fran Diaz Says:

    If you check the facts, the periods of great renaissance in both India & China were during the Buddhist periods in both countries.

    In India, under King Asok’s Buddhist period (269-232 BC), the measures of growth for the country were enormous in human achievements with laws put in place to preserve both human & animal life there. Hospitals, schools, roads and other public structures were erected and country was a peaceful & happy place till the foreign invasions started.
    In China, there were about 2,000 yrs of growth under Buddhism. The highest periods were between the 6th & 10th centuries AD. Apart from spiritual growth, even the material growth happened in China when the printing press, paper, fine bone china, medicines, even gun powder (for peaceful purposes) were produced. Monasteries and shrines of beauty were built. The downfall of Buddhism happened there when Buddhist monasteries turned to places of business employing slave labor. The then Emperor Wu-Tsung ordered the closure of Buddhist monasteries as they were no longer practicing Buddhism.

    However, I think Buddhist monasteries anywhere could become places of great learning of all subjects, without hindering Buddhist values.

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