Indian Households Are Shrinking In Size
Indian families are becoming smaller. In 2001, for example, families with nine members or above formed 11.3 per cent of the total households. But, in 2011, only 6.6 per cent of the households had nine members or more. Households that have six to eight members also fell from 28.1 per cent to 24.9 per cent. There are, however, more households with five or less members. Families with eight members or more would have been very common when India became independent. The number of members in Muslim households is shrinking faster than in any other community, though Muslim households still have more members, on average.
By same token, migration to urban areas is happening faster than ever. India has more nuclear families than ever. But, in 2001, 70.34 per cent of the families were nuclear families. In 2011, interestingly, this fell to 70.11 per cent. Many believe that this is because of the shortage of housing in urban areas. For example, as housing is expensive many young couples prefer to live with their parents. As more women are part of the labour force, it is perhaps true that more young Indians prefer to live with their parents.
Subtleties aside, it cannot be denied that there are now more houses than ever. It is not just the size of households that is shrinking. India's population also rose significantly since Independence. So, there are more houses than ever. In 1910, in developing countries like India, nearly 10 per cent of the people were urban. By 1950, this doubled and by 2010, this rose to over 30 per cent. So, it is not just that there are more houses today, there are many folds more houses in urban areas.
A common assumption is that land is scarce, and that the problem of housing shortage will only worsen. But is this true? Indian cities may have become more congested over years with more people and vehicles on the roads. Undoubtedly, there are more houses in Indian cities but living spaces in Indian cities have not become congested. For example, the average floor space consumption in Mumbai in 1991 was only 2.9 square metre, but in 2009, this had risen to 3.9 square metre. In the same period, Greater Mumbai's population rose from 9.9 million to 12.4 million. This is a rise of over 25 per cent. Still, the rise in average floor space consumption was 34 per cent.
What does this imply? It was not the scarcity of land that led to low floor space consumption in 1991, even in a city which is largely covered by water. It is possible to build far more floor space, even in cities where there is an inherent shortage of land.