Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Parsi Demographic Statistics

This article was sent to us by our regular reader Dilnaz Mory

Indian census data (2001) records

69,601 Parsis in India, with a concentration in and around the city of Mumbai. There are approximately 5,000 Parsis elsewhere on the subcontinent, with an estimated 2500 Parsis in the city of Karachi and approximately 50 Parsi families in Sri Lanka. The number of Parsis worldwide is estimated to be fewer than 100,000 (Eliade, 1991:254) Indian census data also established that the number of Parsis has been steadily declining for several decades:

The highest census count of the Parsis was of 114,890 individuals in 1940-41, which includes the crown colony populations of present-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Post-independence censuses are only available for India (1951: 111,791) and reveal a decline in population of approximately 9% per decade. They do not however take immigration into account. As of 2001, Parsis constitute 0.0069% of the total population of India. the gender ratio amongst Parsis is unusual: as of 2001, the ratio of males to females amongst Parsis was 1000 males to 1050 females (up from 1024 in 1991), due primarily to the high median age of the population (elderly women are more common than elderly men). The national average was 1000 males to 933 females.

The age composition reveals an inverted pyramid: as of 2001, Parsis over the age of 60 make up for 31% of the community. The national average for this age group is 7%. Only 4.7% of the Parsi community are under 6 years of age, which translates to 7 births per year per 1000 individuals.

The Parsis have a high literacy rate: as of 2001, the literacy rate amongst the Parsis is 97.9%, the highest for any Indian community. The national average is 64.8%.

96.1% of Parsis reside in urban areas. The national average is 27.8%.

According to the National Commission for Minorities, there are a “variety of causes that are responsible for this steady decline in the population of the community”, the most significant of which were childlessness and migration (Bose et al., 2004). Demographic trends project that by the year 2020 the Parsis will number only 23,000 or 0.0002% of the total population of India. The Parsis will then cease to be called a community and will be labelled a ‘tribe’. (Taraporevala, 2000, intro).