India overtakes China as the world's most populous country: Is Population a Boon or a Bane?

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In a noteworthy development, India may have already overtaken China as the world's most populous country. According to projections by the World Population Review (WPR), India’s population was 141.7 crore as of the end of 2022. That's a little more than 50 lakh more than the 141.2 crore declared by China on January 17, when there was the first fall since the 1960s, according to official announcements.

 

The well-regarded World Population Review is the usual source for most international comparisons of population size and growth. 

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China Population Growth Slows Down
India’s population is a little more than 50 lakh more than the 141.2 crore declared by China on January 17, when there was the first fall since the 1960s, according to official announcements. The decline in China's population was registered even though the country reversed its strict one-child policy in 2021. The policy, which was implemented in 1980, aimed to reduce the social and economic consequences of rapid population growth by limiting families to have only one child. It was strictly enforced with fines for violators as well. But Beijing is attempting to boost its population now, offering tax deductions, longer maternity leave and housing subsidies to encourage more births. In August last year, China's National Health Commission urged central and provincial governments to increase spending on reproductive health and improve childcare services. China's state council also said that it is considering new measures to encourage flexible working hours and the option to work from home for employees with children. 

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Jobs Crisis on the anvil
India, where half the population is under the age of 30, is set to be the world’s fastest-growing major economy in the coming years. To make the most of the demographic dividend, India needs to create jobs for the millions of people entering the workforce every year as the nation moves away from farm jobs.

Indian Population Policy Based on Education & Awareness
The Indian government does not believe India needs tough measures to control population. Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told Parliament in April 2022 that population control should not be done by force, but by creating awareness and educating people.

 

Experts such as Poonam Muttreja, executive director of the Population Foundation of India, say that “India definitely does not need to introduce strict population control measures. We are on course to achieving population stabilisation by the middle of the century [2048], which will be very close to the long-term objective of India’s National Population Policy, 2000 – achieving a stable population by 2045.”  

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Implications of Population Growth

  1. India is not growing uniformly. Population growth is more concentrated in economically weaker sections of society.
  2. Presently, India is producing around 25 million job seekers in the country, however, the country is able to provide jobs only to 7 million. This gap of 18 million is increasing the burden of unemployment and underemployment in the country, turning a demographic dividend into a demographic disaster.
  3. India’s population growth is not sustainable. India is only about 35-40% of China’s landmass.

Way Forward