The final report of the National Census 2021 shows the improved living standard of Nepalis with the increasing use of modern technologies, automobiles, and appliances over the past decade.
There has been a significant improvement in the living standard of Nepalis as the latest report of the 12th National Census shows that the usage of modern technologies, automobiles, and appliances has seen a significant uptick in the last decade.
The report shows a notable growth in the usage of smartphones, laptops, and other gadgets, as well as the adoption of cleaner cooking fuel alternatives such as LPG gas and induction stoves.
In addition, the census also highlights a surge in the ownership of motorcycles and cars, suggesting that Nepalis are enjoying greater mobility and convenience than before. These findings are likely to have far-reaching implications for both the economic and social development of the country.
“The improved living standard is the result of the improved per capita earning of Nepali citizens in the last decade,” said Hemraj Regmi, Deputy Director General of National Statistics Office (NSO), previously known as the Central Bureau of Statistics.
The census report shows that a significant portion of the population is engaged in economic activities. The total labor force, according to the report, is 65.5 percent of the total population. Of the total population of 23,958,868 aged 10 years or above, 15,689,777 persons (65.5 percent) are economically active, while 8,211,012 persons (34.3 percent) are not economically active.
“The number of the economically active population still seems low as the base age was kept at 10 years. This means that the major portion of the population in this group are students and senior citizens,” said Regmi.
The National Census 2021 has also shed light on interesting facts about the usage of amenities in Nepali households. According to the census, Nepalis are increasingly using smartphones than basic mobile phones. Additionally, more Nepalis are buying televisions, while radio ownership is declining.
Thanks to the expansion of telecom infrastructure, mobile telephony has replaced basic telephone services, leading to a surge in mobile handset ownership and internet subscribership over the last decade.
One of the most notable improvements is the increase in the percentage of households owning mobile phones. In 2011, 64.63 percent of households had ordinary mobile phones which increased to 73.15 percent in 2021.
The percentage of households owning televisions has also increased significantly from 36.45 percent in 2011 to 49.37 percent in 2021.
The most remarkable increase is in access to internet services. In 2011, only 3.33 percent of households had access to the internet, which has significantly increased to 37.72 percent in 2021. This increase can be attributed to the growth of the telecommunications sector and the government’s efforts to provide better internet infrastructure across the country.
According to Prof. Shiva Adhikari, Head of Economics Department at Tribhuvan University, the numbers indicate changing and enhanced lifestyle of Nepalis. “However, it brings the question of whether the increased income is directly proportional to an improvement in their way of life, or whether they are merely resorting to borrowing money to achieve this,” he said, adding, “The Covid-19 pandemic has further complicated matters as the situation required people to purchase phones and laptops to work remotely from their homes. Hence, it is crucial to determine whether the lifestyle changes observed among Nepalis are a direct result of improved income or a consequence of societal norms and constructs.”
Likewise, the percentage of households owning refrigerators has also increased from 7.16 percent in 2011 to 23.7 percent in 2021. The percentage of households owning a computer or laptop has increased from 7.28 percent in 2011 to 15 percent in 2021, indicating an increase in access to technology and the potential for more online work opportunities.
Similarly, the percentage of households owning a motorcycle has increased significantly from 9.58 percent in 2011 to 27.3 percent in 2021. This shows that more households now have access to personal transportation, which can help improve mobility and access to essential services.
The percentage of households owning a car, jeep, or van has increased slightly from 1.57 percent in 2011 to 3.1 percent in 2021. While this increase may seem small, it still indicates a positive trend toward more households having access to personal vehicles.
Prof. Adhikari is of the view that it doesn’t matter if Nepalis’ lifestyle has changed. “The major question is if their earning has increased or not,” he said.
Increased access to basic amenities
An increasing number of Nepali households now have access to tap or piped water facilities, which is a positive development toward ensuring safe and clean drinking water for all.
According to the census data, the percentage of households with access to tap or piped water facilities has increased from 47.78 percent in 2011 to 57 percent in 2021. In contrast, the percentage of households relying on wells or hand pumps for their drinking water has decreased from 35.1 percent in 2011 to 29.8 percent in 2021.
The Census 2021 also revealed that access to electricity in Nepal has significantly improved over the last decade, thanks to the completion of more hydropower projects. The data shows that the percentage of households using electricity as their primary source of lighting has jumped from 67.3 percent in 2011 to an impressive 92.2 percent in 2021.
As access to electricity has increased, the use of kerosene as a source of lighting has witnessed a sharp decline. In 2011, 18.3 percent of households relied on kerosene as their primary lighting and cooking source, while in 2021, only 0.6 percent of households used this fuel.
Nepal is facing a major concern with its aging population as the country is experiencing a significant drop in the share of the population aged 14 years or below while the share of people aged 15 years or above is rising substantially.
The final data of the National Census 2021 reveals that Nepal’s total population stands at 29,164,578, with the share of children aged 14 years or below decreasing to 27.83 percent in 2021 from 34.91 percent in 2011.
In contrast, the working-age population in the 15-59 years age group has grown to 61.96 percent in 2021 from 56.96 percent in 2011, and the share of the population aged 60 years or above has risen to 10.21 percent in 2021 from 8.13 percent in 2011.
The declining population of children is attributed to people having fewer babies, and Nepal’s annualized population growth from 2011 to 2021 is at an 80-year low of 0.92 percent. This is concerning since Nepal’s annual population growth rate is now lower than the global average of 1.01 percent in 2020.
According to Nebin Lal Shrestha, Deputy Chief Statistical Officer at NSO, Nepal is missing out on developing countries as young people are migrating to foreign lands in search of job opportunities due to the lack of opportunities.
Officials and experts are concerned that a decrease in the population of children and an increase in the elderly population could affect economic productivity in the long term.
“The demographic shift has significant implications for Nepal’s social, economic, and healthcare systems. The rise in the aging population will place a burden on healthcare facilities, and also shrinking workforce will affect economic growth,” said Regmi adding that the policymakers need to address this issue by implementing policies that promote higher birth rates and create job opportunities for young people.
Replacing pricy LPG a challenge
In the past decade, Nepal has witnessed a significant shift in the main source of fuel used for cooking. The usage of LPG has increased remarkably, from 21.03 percent in 2011 to 44.3 percent in 2021. This shift towards LPG is undoubtedly a positive change for the environment as it reduces the amount of greenhouse gases produced by traditional sources like firewood and charcoal.
However, the usage of electric stoves as the primary source of fuel for cooking is still quite low. In 2011, only 0.08 percent of households used electricity for cooking, which increased slightly to 0.5 percent in 2021.
“This shows that there is a significant gap that needs to be addressed in terms of promoting the usage of electric stoves. While LPG is a cleaner alternative to traditional fuels, it still produces emissions and contributes to air pollution. The government of Nepal needs to work towards promoting the usage of electric stoves, which are a cleaner and more sustainable option for cooking. By providing subsidies and incentives for the installation of electric stoves, the government can encourage households to shift towards this option,” said Regmi.
According to Prof. Adhikari, as Nepal is becoming self-sufficient in electricity generation, the government must focus on promoting the usage of electricity over LPG gas for cooking purposes. “By doing so, Nepal can save a significant amount of foreign currency, which would otherwise be spent on importing LPG. Nepal has plans to increase its per capita electricity consumption and promoting the usage of electric stoves is one of the ways to achieve this goal.” According to him, the government can provide incentives and subsidies to households to encourage them to switch to electric stoves, which are not only environmentally friendly but also cost-effective in the long run.
More than half of Nepalis engaged in agriculture
More than half of the economically active population in Nepal is engaged in the agriculture sector. According to the National Census 2021, 50.1 percent of the total population engaged in any economic activity are skilled workers in agriculture, forestry, and fishery.
The majority of economically active individuals in Nepal, accounting for 57.3 percent, are engaged in the agriculture industry. This indicates that agriculture is the most significant industry in terms of employment in Nepal. The other top industries that employ Nepali workers are wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, construction, other service activities, and manufacturing, but their contribution is considerably less than that of agriculture.