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India's Population May Overtake China: UN's World Population Prospects (WPP) Report

Jul 26, 2022

India's Population May Overtake China: UN's World Population Prospects (WPP) Report

Read our daily dose of Current Affairs wherein we talk about the crucial updates of national and international importance. In today's edition, we will discuss UN's World Population Prospects report.

Navigate further to enhance your UPSC preparation and check the topic's relevance to the UPSC CSE syllabus.

For Prelims: World Population Prospects (WPP), World Population Day, Life Expectancy, Mortality Rate, Fertility Rate, Indian Population, Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), National Family Health Survey 5 (NFHS-5)

For Mains: Population Growth, Impact of Covid-19, Poverty and Development Issue, Human Geography


Recently, the United Nations’ World Population Prospects (WPP) 2022 has projected that India may surpass China as the world’s most populous country next year.

Probable Question

Recently released UN’s World Population Prospects (WPP) predicted that India will replace China as the world’s most populous nation within a year. What are the opportunities and concerns with respect to the growing population in India?

About the WPP Report on the Global Population

  • The WPP has been preparing the biennial report since 1951.
  • WPP 2022 is the 27th edition of official UN population estimates, and projections prepared by the Department’s Population Division.
  • It was released by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs on World Population Day (11th July).
  • Sources of Data Generation: National population censuses conducted between 1950 – 2022, information from registration systems, and representative sample surveys.

Significance of the WPP

  • The demographic data in the report helps to assess population trends at the global, regional, and national levels.
  • These assessments, estimates, and projections are further used to calculate development indicators used by the UN system.

Important Findings from the Report 

  • Pace of population Growth:
    • Population growth has been slowed by more than half owing to reduced levels of fertility and, in some cases, elevated rates of emigration.
    • The 46 least developed countries (LDCs) are among the world’s fastest growing, and they might double in population between 2022 and 2050.
  • International Migration: The report estimates that migration will be the sole driver of population growth in high-income countries.
  • Gender Equality: Currently, the male population is more than the females, but by 2050 the number of women will be equal to the number of men. 
  • Distribution of Population: The regional population will significantly differ, in upcoming decades, due to different growth rates.
  • Elderly population: There will be more elders than twice the number of children under the age of 5 and about the same as the number of children under the age of 12.
  • Life Expectancy, Fertility, and Mortality: 
    • The reasons for low life expectancy at birth is due to high levels of child and maternal mortality and conflict.
    • Life expectancy for the least developed countries lagged seven years behind the global average.
    • Today, 2/3rd of the global population lives in a country or area where fertility is below 2.1 births per woman.
    • The primary reason for a sustained drop in fertility, has resulted due to an increased concentration of the population at working ages, between 25 and 64 years.
  • Impact of Covid Pandemic: The mixed impact on fertility levels has been observed since the pandemic;
    • In low and middle-income countries, the life expectancy, mortality, and fertility remained relatively stable.
    • In high-income countries, life expectancy, mortality, and fertility have generated short-term fluctuations. 
    • Whereas the global life expectancy at birth fell to 71 years in 2021 from 72.8 in 2019. 

Findings of the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME)

The WPP 2022 reports also mentions IHME estimates, an independent global health research center in the U.S., which is an alternative long-term population projection, and has projected –

  • The primary reason for population growth is declining levels of mortality, reflected in increased levels of life expectancy at birth. 
  • The global level of fertility will decline faster than under the United Nations medium scenario and India too will witness a decline.
  • The average number of children per woman will decline to 1.66 children at the end of the century while the United Nations projects fertility to be around 1.84 at the same date.

India to become the most Populous Country

  • In 2019, the UN Population Prospects projected that India will surpass China’s population by 2027.
  • Whereas the WPP-2022 has projected that India may surpass China as the world’s most populous country next year. 
  • The report also estimates that India will have a population of 1.66 billion in 2050, ahead of China’s 1.317 billion around that time.
  • If we consider working persons in the age group 15 to 64 in denominator, the dependency ratio would actually work out to be alarmingly high at 124%, as just 55% reporting any kind of employment in India. 
  • The constant rise in population may adversely country and can increase issues such as –
    • More population will require the unflinching focus of policymakers on areas fundamental to human well-being — education, nutrition, healthcare, housing, and employment.
    • Unemployment crisis is already severe in the country and the constant growth in population can worsen the situation even more by raising issues – poverty, poor standards of living, illiteracy, etc.
    • Every country has a limited landmass, and the rising population has already resulted in deforestation, urbanization of agricultural land, etc and thus can degrade the environment.
    • The climate crisis and other ecological imperatives will mean that the footprints of many activities are kept light. 
    • The challenges from population rise will spur debate, discussion, even dissension, and require that diverse voices are heard.

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Way Forward

Globally, all the nations should work towards enhancing the lives of their current and future citizens and address challenges plaguing their economies.

  • Demographic dividend needs to be strengthened, for which there is a need to invest in the education and health of the workforce.
  • The pressure to provide quality jobs that are also expected to be climate-friendly—or at the very least climate neutral –will only continue to increase.
  • If nations focus on enhancing the incomes of rural people, it can create a huge demand for industrial products, along with political legitimacy.
  • Effective education, especially that of the girl child, open discussion and dialogue about family planning methods are considered the best way to control population growth.
Additional Information

The Government of India released the National Family Health Survey-5, a study conducted in 2019-20, which showed that India’s total fertility rate has declined to 2.0.

As per the UN, a sustained total fertility rate of 2.1 is necessary for a country to achieve population stability, and the report projects that India will have a total fertility rate of 1.29 births per woman in 2100, which is when the population size begins to shrink.

National Family Health Survey – 5 (NFHS)Recent data under the survey have shown awareness of family planning and contraceptive methods to control unnecessary population growth –Contraception is basically any technique or method used to prevent pregnancy.

The most common methods of contraception available are sterilization, condom, pills, injectables, withdrawal, IUD/PPIUD, rhythm method, emergency contraception, and Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM), Standard days method, foam and jelly, etc.

Female sterilization method is known as ‘Tubectomies’ and male sterilization method is known as ‘Vasectomies’.

Female sterilization is performed 10 times more than males, as the NFHS data suggests that more than 1/3rd of the males is of the opinion that women should handle contraception.

Additionally: The survey shows that family planning among married women has increased from 66% in 2015-2016 to 76% in 2019-2021.

Source: The Hindu, The Indian Express

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