• Alaka BasuAlaka Basu
      Alaka M. Basu is Professor, Development Sociology, Cornell University, and a member of the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission on Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health
      Alessandro RosinaAlessandro Rosina
      Professor of Demography and Director, Center for Applied Statistics in Business and Economics, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
      Andrea BrandoliniAndrea Brandolini
      Head of Statistical Analysis Directorate, Bank of Italy
      Bruno MasquelierBruno Masquelier
      Professor of Demography, University of Louvain, Belgium
      Cheikh MbackéCheikh Mbacké
      Associate Professor, Sociology department, Laval University
      Cinzia ContiCinzia Conti
      Researcher at Istat, Head of Unit on Foreign Presence and Social Dynamics
      Corrado BonifaziCorrado Bonifazi
      Director of the Institute for Research on Population and Social Policies, National Research Council, Rome Italy
      Ernestina CoastErnestina Coast
      Associate Professor of Population Studies, London School of Economics
      Wang FengFeng Wang
      Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine, USA, and Professor at Fudan University, Shanghai, China fwang(at)
      Francesco BillariFrancesco Billari
      Professor of Sociology and Demography, Department of Social and Political Sciences, Bocconi University. • Personal webpage • francesco.billari(at)
      Gilles PisonGilles Pison
      Professor at Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle and Director of Research at the French National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) (Paris)
      Gustavo De SantisGustavo De Santis
      Professor of Demography, University of Florence, Italy
      Jacques VallinJacques Vallin
      Emeritus Research Director at INED, Paris; Honorary President of IUSSP
      John KnodelJohn Knodel
      Research Professor Emeritus, Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan (USA) and International staff, College of Populations Studies, Chulalongkorn University (Thailand)
      Letizia MencariniLetizia Mencarini
      Associate professor of Demography, Bocconi University - Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics and Public Policy & Collegio Carlo Alberto; P.I. ERC P.I. ERC project n. 313617 (2013-2018) SWELLFER
      Letizia TanturriLetizia Tanturri
      Associate Professor of Demography - Department of Statistical Sciences - University of Padova • Personal webpage ml.tanturri(at)
      Massimo livi BacciMassimo livi Bacci
      Emeritus Professor of Demography, University of Florence, Italy
      Monica Das GuptaMonica Das Gupta
      Research Professor of Sociology, University of Maryland, USA
      Paula Miranda-RibeiroPaula Miranda-Ribeiro
      Professor, Demography Department and Cedeplar, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil.
      Peter McDonaldPeter McDonald
      Professor of Demography in the Australian National University. Honorary President of IUSSP and winner of the Irene B. Taeuber Award
      Roberto ImpicciatoreRoberto Impicciatore
      Università di Bologna.
      Salvatore StrozzaSalvatore Strozza
      Professor of Demography, University Federico II, Naples (Italy)
      Stefano MolinaStefano Molina
      Senior Program Officer, Giovanni Agnelli Foundation, Italy
      our authors
    • N-IUSSP is a new IUSSP news magazine, which will disseminate scientific findings from demographic research carried out all over the world. The practical implications of current trends, the risks and potentialities of emerging situations, the pros and cons of specific laws are discussed in rigorous but plain language.

      Everybody is free to reproduce our articles, for free, provided the original source is cited.

      You are invited to contribute to this new publication: please check our guidelines and submit your 1000 word contribution to

The population of Sri Lanka in transition: policy stance
La transition démographique au Sri Lanka, et les enjeux politiques

K.A.P. Siddhisena
Sri Lanka people

The present world population of 7.3 billion is projected to increase to 8.5 billion or more by 2030, with almost 90 percent of the increase occurring in the developing countries, which are already struggling to improve overwhelming issues such as severe poverty. In the context of the developing world, Sri Lanka has a favourable population growth, but several challenging issues remain to be faced.

Population change

At present (2015), the population of Sri Lanka stands at 20.5 million. The rate of growth, below 1 per cent per annum, is the lowest among South Asian countries, but still high in absolute terms; there may be as many as 23 million Sri Lankans by 2030. Sri Lanka had a high population density of 336 persons per square kilometer in 2015 having increased from 230 in 1981. The projected increase in population is a challenge to policy makers wanting to upgrade the socio-economic conditions of the country – for instance, reducing poverty from its current level of 6.7. per cent.
siddasenaOther basic needs such as education, health, shelter and food also need to be well planned in order to advance the quality of life of the people of Sri Lanka in years to come.
As shown in Table 1, the shift in the age structure in the past 100 years has been substantial. Thevery young population of the past has evolved into one where the working ages form the bulk, while the old age groups are already on the increase, and will continue to be so in the future.

Demographic dividend?

The opening of this demographic window of opportunity (or “demographic dividend”) potentially is conducive to economic development for the next one and a half decades – more or less until 2030. But will it be used to achieve sustainable development? Up to now, the socio-economic policies and programmes implemented in Sri Lanka have been modest, to say the least. New employment avenues, programmes and policies have to be implemented, with special consideration for the educated but unemployed youth. It is they who must be “empowered”, it is their potential which must be transformed into good jobs, and income, if we want this “demographic bonus” to transform into actual economic development.

Ageing is looming in Sri Lanka, too

The policy makers as well as the society should also plan now to improve the wellbeing of the ageing population. The number of persons aged 60 years and over has doubled in relative terms, from 6.6 per cent in 1981 to 12.4 percent in 2012 – and this trend will continue for several years into the future. As is the case almost everywhere in the world, the older population is predominantly made up of women (79 males for every 100 females), due to higher female life expectancy: currently 76 years, as against a life expectancy of 72 years for men. This female older population is vulnerable due to widowhood and income scarcity, thus warranting more attention towards their health and well-being.

The theme of this year’s (2015) World Population Day, “Vulnerable Population in Emergencies”, emphasizes the need for careful consideration of all vulnerable groups. Sri Lanka has several of these.






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