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High cost living impacts population dynamics

Imphal City

The comparative scale of the rising cost of living in Manipur as of today may dissuade urban young women from marrying at all, or to tie the wedding knot very late in their 30s, as is similarly taking shape in costly nations like Japan – and definitely many countries in Europe

By Salam Rajesh

A recent newspaper clip on Japan’s ever rising cost of living captured a related concern on its population dynamics, one that expects a catastrophic turn in its population statistics – reducing it to none after the horrifying aftermath of the atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the fag end of the Second World War.

Reporting on the latest concerns in the country of the ‘rising Sun’, agencies reflected on the probability of women in Japan either opting out of marriage or marrying very late in age with the purpose of having a single child, or none at all. The impact is from the burden of rising children with living costs reaching the ceiling, becoming unaffordable for many in the highly urbanized locations.

A report of Japan’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research estimated that 33.4 percent of women born in 2005 indicated their inclination in not having children at all, a statistics that is starting to worry the Nipponese Government. The agencies reported that despite the Government’s lucrative offer to families having three or more children with big payoffs, many young women are not going in for the bait.

A 2020 survey finding indicated that Japanese women were marrying 3.9 years later than usual, often marrying in their late 30s. This is enough reason for childless issues, senior analyst Takuya Hoshino observed. The resulting impact analysis is that Japan’s overall population of 126.15 million is expected to fall down to 87 million by 2070 if things are not reversed.

At an average reading, the cost of living in Japan is roughly 132.4 percent higher than in India, where the average rent in Japan is around 221.2 percent higher than in India. A quick look at the Japanese market says banana costs as much as INR 189 a bunch, tomato costs INR 347 a kilo, onion costs INR 189.71 a kilo, and a one-litre water bottle costs INR 70.79 for instance.

A comparative study of the Imphal markets would reveal a similar trend of rising costs of the commodities, for instance like a plate of eggs that cost around INR 90 just few years back now cost INR 300, while a bunch of banana that used to cost INR 15 now has crossed INR 50 and more – sometimes going up to INR 250 for a good bunch.

Tomato is truly costly in Japan at INR 347 a kilo and so most people may refrain from eating tomatoes! The corresponding rising cost of essentials in Manipur also demonstrates a rising cost in living where cost of education for the children is sky-rocketing as in the private schools.

Japan’s national IPSSR institute estimated that the tuition fees at private universities had increased five-fold since 1975 and nineteen times more since 2021, indicating that studying in the Nipponese cities is truly expensive today. It can be said to be true of the private institutions in Imphal where the cost of tuition and transport fees for the school going kids are exceptionally high, going at more than INR 2000 in a month for the private school vans.

A visible impact of the rise in salaries for the government employees through the 6th and 7th Pay Commissions had corresponding effect on the market with vendors raising the scale of prices of the commodities in market. One single piece of egg now cost INR 8 or more, while youngsters of today will not believe that four eggs cost just INR 1 only in the 1970s and early 1980s! For that matter, the roadside vegetable vendors will not negotiate anything less than INR 10 where enough coriander leaves or green chives could be had for INR 2 only less than a decade back.

Land valuation in the Imphal urban and peri-urban areas have sky-jumped manifold, increased by as many as ten times or more. In the peri-urbans, a plot of agricultural land was sold at INR 18,000 for one point while it has crossed the limits at INR 4 lakhs per point, and where an acre of land now cost INR 30 lakhs and more – as compared to just INR 5 lakhs for the same size of plot as in 2008.

This issue brings back to that discussion on Japanese young women now preferring to remain single up to their late 30s, or not marrying at all, considering the rising cost of living and the probability of facing difficulties in raising their children in consideration to the sky-rocketing prices of food, medicine and education. It may have an equal impact on the lives of the urban population back home as prices soar with each passing year.

The price for a 15.6 kilo cylinder of the cooking gas was around INR 445 few years back but a consumer has to dish out INR 1200 or more at the current market price without subsidy. This writer visited a few Manipuri Muslim inhabited villages in Thoubal District for a survey some years back and found that the marginalized families had gone back to their Chula using firewood as they could not afford the ‘expensive’ cooking gas. This may be said to be equally true for those families living in the remote areas in Manipur’s hill districts.

The subject matter then brings up the concerns on the haves and the have-nots divide – the rich and the poor divide basically – as compared with the salaried community and those in the non-formal sectors. The rising divide is also a factor for increasing the level of tension in society whenever there is a crisis in the State, as when the highways are blocked due to ethnic rioting and the essential commodities become limited, or due to economic recesses, and / or due to inflation.

The comparative scale of the rising cost of living in Manipur as of today may dissuade urban young women from marrying at all, or to tie the wedding knot very late in their 30s, as is similarly taking shape in costly nations like Japan – and definitely many countries in Europe – thus reshaping the fabric of the demographic profile of States and infusing a new living style where remaining single, or the preference for a single child, becomes the norm.


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