India to overtake China in population in 2023 - GulfToday

India to overtake China in population in 2023

indian population

Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

India is set to become the most populous country in the world, overtaking China, this year, according to United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA’s) “State of World Population Report, 2023”. The report says that India’s population would be 1,428.6 million or 1.4286 billion compared to China’s 1.4257 billion. There will be 2.9 million more Indians than Chinese.

Speculation is that this transition could take place sometime in the middle of this year, and experts are not willing to pinpoint the date when this will happen because the statistics from India and China are not available. India could not carry out its decennial census in 2021 because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The combined population of India and China will constitute one-third of the world’s 8.045 billion people. The United States with its population of 340 million will be the third largest country in terms of population. The population numbers are based on information available till February 2023.

 Though India will become the most populous country in the world, its population growth is showing a downward trend of 1.2 per cent since 2011 compared to the 1.7 per cent growth in the previous decade. The Chinese population has shown a distinct negative trend in 2022, for the first time in 60 years. Andrea Wojnar, Representative for UNFPA in India, said, “The Indian survey findings suggest that population anxieties have seeped into large portions of the general public. Yet, population numbers should not trigger anxiety or create alarm. Instead, they should be seen as a symbol of progress, development and aspirations if individual rights and choices are being upheld.”

India emerging as the country with the biggest population will lead to heated debate within the country and in the world about what it means to India and for the world. India has also the largest working population of 1.1 billion, which is 75 per cent of the population. It is a great opportunity in terms of economic growth because there will be a large enough workforce to create goods and services, and it will also make India a big market for both investors and businesses. But it will also be a challenge to governments, policy-makers and businesses because this large segment has to be skilled and made employable. This would mean greater investment in education because a modern economy requires a large, skilled workforce. India has since the 1950s struggled hard to control population through its family planning programme, and the World Bank supported the programme through financial aid in the 1960s, because everyone felt that a large population would be an obstacle for economic development. The lesson drawn from Western countries was that their prosperity was due to their small populations and high technology. The phrase that was commonly invoked to describe the Indian situation was “population explosion”. But the concern over population ceased in the 1990s when the Indian economy opened up through liberalisation, and the economic growth jumped. There arose the hope that it was possible to provide jobs for all, and more jobs would only greater prosperity. The issue of population turned from being a nightmare to one of opportunity. And seeing the large segment of the young in the population gave rise to the catchy phrase of “democratic dividend”.

But the challenge of population in emerging market economies like India is that the advantage of a large number of young people is not a permanent feature, and that the proportion of the older people would grow and there would be a decline in the workforce. This has happened in the advanced economies of the United States, European Union (EU) and Japan. Perhaps countries like India and China would want a population model that would keep the proportion of young, working people high as a constant feature.

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