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Planning Commission releases report on Tibetan demographic survey

December 6, 2010

Phayul
Saturday, December 04, 2010
By Phurbu Thinley

Dharamsala, Dec 4: The Planning Commission of Tibet's government in exile has officially released its report on the latest population census of the Tibetans living in the exile community.

The report titled “Demographic Survey of Tibetans in Exile-2009” is an outcome of the survey conducted by the office of the Planning Commission on 12 April 2009 worldwide.

The survey found that the total population of Tibetans outside of Tibet as on 12 April 2009 stood at 127,935, comprising of 70,556 males and 57,379 females, as compared to 111,020 recorded during the 1998 survey.

Accordingly, the sex ratio for Tibetan population in exile is 798 females per 1000 males, which is an improvement of 6 points over 792 recorded in 1998, the report said.

Of the total population recorded, 94,203 Tibetans are living in India, 13,514 in Nepal, 1,298 in Bhutan and 18,920 elsewhere around the world.

The survey recorded a significant growth of population in the countries outside South Asia with a figure of 18,920 persons as against 12,153 in 1998. The report estimates that over 9,309 persons have moved to the west during 1998-2009.

Out of an estimated 75 percent of the exile population who have migrated, the report said 52 percent have changed their residences permanently for education and economic opportunities.

The report said the Tibetan exile community made up about 3 percent of the total ethnic Tibetan population in the world with the rest in the Tibetan areas under Chinese control.

This is the second demographic survey of Tibetan exiles. The first such census was taken on June 12, 1998. The second census, required to be taken after ten years time, was actually due on June 12, 2008. It had to be postponed by 10 months due to the emergency situation caused by widespread unrest in Tibet against Chinese rule two years ago.

Dr Kunchok Tsondue, the Chief Planning Officer, told Phayul that in India, Nepal and Bhutan where the majority of Tibetan exiles live, not more than 5 percent of the population had missed the survey. He, however, said there were reasons to believe that a sizeable population elsewhere, especially in the west, either did not participate or have missed the survey owing to a number of factors.

Dr Tsundue said described non-participation by Tibetans who have either adopted citizenship of a host country or are in the process of becoming a neutralised citizen as one of the single largest factors for missing population in the census. "Although there is no reason to be worried about, many Tibetans in this category seemed to have shied away from taking part in the survey," he said.

The popular estimate is that there are around 150, 000 Tibetan exiles around the world.

The Chief Planning Officer said that the latest demographic survey showed some remarkable and encouraging improvements in many aspects of the Tibetan exile population, including education, culture and economic characteristics.

As per the latest survey, there is an impressive surge of 10.1 percent in general literacy rate from 69.3 percent in 1998 to 79.4 percent in 2009. The effective literacy rate (population of 6 years and above) is 82.4 percent and the literacy rates for males and females are 88.7 percent and 74.4 percent respectively.

Going by the current trend, Dr Tsundue said there was every possibility to expect 100% literacy rate in the exile community by 2020.

The survey showed that the rate of Tibetan workforce population has also improved remarkably by 52.2 percent in both main and marginal workers categories. The total workforce population is over 75,000 strong, with 27,540 as main workers (36 percent) and 5,525 (7.36 percent) as marginal workers (i.e., those who did not work for at least 183 days in the preceding 12 months to the survey).

The survey witnessed significant occupational shift of those main workers in primary agricultural activities to more diversified tertiary sectors. As compared to 22.5 percent of main workers in farming and cultivation activities, in 2009 only 8.1 of them have retained farming as their primary activity. The change in mindset, literacy level, the know-how and the external exposures of present generation are the factors behind this occupational shift, the survey said.

The survey also recorded an unprecedented growth of NGOs and a steady growth in house hold industries, informal business (mainly sweater business) and teaching professions.

The overall dependency ratio in the latest survey is measured at 41 percent as against 53 percent in 1998. Child dependency ratio is 27 percent as against 39 percent in 1998, whereas, old-age dependency is recorded as 14 percent in 2009 as in 1998.

The infant mortality rate of the Tibetan population in exile was recorded as 15.44 per 1000 child-births and it has gone down to 60.3 percent in comparison to 1998. Household economic improvement and better health coverage of the population with essential child health services such as mother and child care programs have ensured continued declines in level of infant mortality.

The survey also showed some aspects that could be of a worrying trend for the exile Tibetan community.

The survey found that the annual growth rates which were hovering around estimated 2.8 percent for the last 30 years, has declined below two percent, thus putting the annual growth rate of the Tibetan population in exile in 2009 at 1.96.

The survey also showed that the total fertility rates, based on "own-child method", which for the period prior to 1998 was estimated to be as high as 4.9 during 1987-89, has gone down to 1.18 in 2009, thus showing a total decline in the fertility level of 3.65 in 2009.

The survey said two major factors – growth in literacy rate among the young child bearing Tibetan women and rise in contraceptive prevalence - might have caused the fertility transition in Tibetan population. While more educated women take longer time in building their careers that delay their age at marriage resulting in fewer children or forgoing having them altogether, the contraceptive prevalence has risen substantially from only 10 percent among the married women in 1980's to 95 percent in 2001, the survey found.

While the overall working population has increased, there are as many as 36,755 non-workers that make up 34 percent of the total population out of which 15.5 percent are unemployed, the report said. It can be said that over 17 percent of the total workforce population is unemployed and underemployed, the report added.

Also the life expectancy of total population in 2009 stands at 67.45 years, which is 5.05 years less than previous survey.

There is also a slight increase in crude death rate from 8.78 per thousand in 1998 to 9.7 in 2009. Cancer is the leading cause of both morbidity and mortality in the Tibetan community followed by liver cirrhosis, heart-related diseases. Even as TB and malaria are gradually declining, the deaths caused by HIV/AIDS, accidents, suicides are increasingly becoming an inescapable reality, the survey said.
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