Population Composition- NCERT Notes UPSC


People of any country are diverse in many respects. Each person is unique in her/his own way. People can be distinguished by their age, sex and their place of residence. Some of the other distinguishing attributes of the population are occupation, education and life expectancy.

Population Composition is an essential part of the Geography syllabus and should be covered extensively during the UPSC exam preparation. This article will help you understand the topic in its depth and help you in the Geography preparation. 

Sex Composition

  • The number of women and men in a country is an important demographic characteristic
  • The ratio between the number of women and men in the population is called the Sex Ratio.
  • In India, the sex ratio is worked out using the formula:
Sex Ratio

               or the number of females per thousand males.

  • The sex ratio is important information about the status of women in a country.

Reasons for Lower Sex Ratio

  • Gender discrimination: In regions where the practice of female foeticide, female infanticide and domestic violence against women turned poor sex ratio.
  • Lower socioeconomic status of women in these areas.

World Pattern of Sex Ratio

  • On average, the world population reflects a sex ratio of 102 males per 100 females. 
  • The highest sex ratio in the world has been recorded in Latvia where there are 85 males per 100 females. In contrast, in Qatar, there are 311 males per 100 females.
  • The sex ratio is favourable for females in 139 countries of the world and unfavourable for them in the remaining 72 countries listed by the United Nations.
  • In general, Asia has a low sex ratio.
  • The greater part of Europe (including Russia): Males are in minority, which is attributed to the better status of women, and an excessively male-dominated out-migration to different parts of the world in the past.
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Age Structure

  • Age structure represents the number of people of different age groups
  • It is an important indicator of population composition: 
    • Large Population: A large size of the population in the age group of 15- 59.
    • Ageing Population: A greater proportion of the population above 60 years requires more expenditure on health care facilities.
    • Youthful Population: High proportion of the young population would mean that the region has a high birth rate.

Age-Sex Pyramid

  • The age-sex structure of a population refers to the number of females and males in different age groups
  • A population pyramid is used to show the age-sex structure of the population.
  • The shape of the population pyramid reflects the characteristics of the population. 
  • The left side shows the percentage of males while the right side shows the percentage of women in each age group.

Expanding Population – Case of Nigeria

  • The age-sex pyramid is a triangular-shaped pyramid with a wide base and is typical of less developed countries.
  • These have larger populations in lower age groups due to high birth rates.
  • The pyramids for Bangladesh and Mexico look the same.
Expanding Population

Expanding Population

Constant Population – Case of Australia

  • The age-sex pyramid is bell-shaped and tapered towards the top
  • This shows birth and death rates are almost equal leading to a near-constant population.
Constant Population

Constant Population

Declining Populations – Case of Japan

  • The pyramid has a narrow base and a tapered top showing low birth and death rates. 
  • The population growth in developed countries is usually zero or negative.
Declining Population

Declining Population

Rural-Urban Composition

This division is based on the residence. It is necessary because rural and urban lifestyles differ from each other in terms of their livelihood and social conditions. The age-sex-occupational structure, density of population and level of development vary between rural and urban areas.

  • In general terms 
    • Rural areas: They are those where people are engaged in primary activities.
    • Urban areas: They are those when the majority of the working population is engaged in non-primary activities.
  • In Western countries 
    • Males outnumber females in rural areas and females outnumber the males in urban areas
    • For example – The excess of females in urban areas of the U.S.A., Canada and Europe is the result of the influx of females from rural areas to avail of the vast job opportunities. 
  • Sex ratio in Asian urban areas 
    • It remains male-dominated due to the predominance of male migration. 
    • In countries like India, female participation in farming activity in the rural area is fairly high.
    • Shortage of housing, high cost of living, paucity of job opportunities and lack of security in cities, discourage women to migrate from rural to urban areas.

Useful links for UPSC IAS preparation:

Macroeconomics- Indian Economy Notes: NCERT Notes UPSCBricks, Beads and Bones The Harappan Civilisation- NCERT Notes UPSCCold War: Origin, Causes and Phases- NCERT Notes UPSC
Migration: Types, Causes and Consequences- NCERT Notes UPSC 
Indian Constitution: Why and How? – NCERT Notes UPSCFundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution- NCERT Notes UPSCHuman Geography: Nature and Scope- NCERT Notes UPSCNational Income Accounting- NCERT Notes UPSC


  • The proportion of the literate population of a country is an indicator of its socio-economic development as it reveals the standard of living, social status of females, availability of educational facilities and policies of the government.
  • The level of economic development is both a cause and consequence of literacy. 
  • In India – the literacy rate denotes the percentage of the population above 7 years of age, who is able to read, write and have the ability to do arithmetic calculations with understanding.

Occupational Structure

The working population (women and men of the age group – 15 to 59) take part in various occupations ranging from agriculture, forestry, fishing, manufacturing construction, commercial transport, services, communication and other unclassified services.

  • Types of Economic Activities
    • Primary Activity: Such as agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining.
    • Secondary Activities: It relates to manufacturing and industrial activities.
    • Tertiary Activities: It includes activities like trade, transport, communication and other services.
    • Quaternary Activities: It includes the jobs related to research, information technology and developing ideas. 
  • The proportion of the working population engaged in these above four sectors is a good indicator of the levels of economic development of a nation because only a developed economy with industries and infrastructure can accommodate more workers in the secondary, tertiary and quaternary sectors.
  • If the economy is still in the primitive stages, then the proportion of people engaged in primary activities world be high as it involves the extraction of natural resources.

Interesting Points

  • Ageing Population: It is the process by which the share of the older population becomes proportionally larger. This is a new phenomenon of the twentieth century. In most of the developed countries of the world, the population in higher age groups has increased due to increased life expectancy. With a reduction in birth rates, the proportion of children in the population has declined.

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