The United Nations estimates India will pass China to have the world’s largest population sometime later this year. This comes from the U.N. Population Fund’s State of the World Population report.
Both countries have over 1.4 billion people. But India will have about 3 million more people than China sometime around the middle of 2023. The last time India counted its population through a census was 2011. It is not possible to say exactly when India will overtake China. Together, the countries combine for about one third of the world’s population.
China has been the world’s largest country since at least 1950. That is the first year the U.N. issued population numbers.
India’s population is four times larger than it was when the country gained independence 76 years ago. Recent guesses said India would not surpass China in population until later this decade, but China’s birth rate has gone down. While India’s birth rate is also going down, China’s population is getting older. China’s population decreased last year for the first time in about 60 years.
India has 254 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. That is the most in the world. India’s fertility rate – the average number of children each woman gives birth to – has been decreasing since 1960. But the country’s medical system is improving. More babies are surviving their first year of life. The infant mortality rate has gone down over the past 30 years.
The country could become an economic power. But experts are concerned that there are not enough jobs for young Indians. If the population grows and jobs do not, many people could fall into poverty. Right now, the Center for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE) says only 40 percent of working-age Indians have jobs.
Mahesh Vyas is the center’s director. He called the growing population a “demographic dividend.” But he said the country has failed to create enough jobs to see gains from its young workers. He noted that the number of jobs available in India over the last six years has remained at about 405 million.
India has changed from an impoverished nation in 1947 to Asia’s third largest economy, valued at $3 trillion. The country exports computer software and vaccines. Millions of people have moved from poverty to the middle class as the number of educated people has grown.
Poonam Muttreja is head of the Population Foundation of India. She said the country must plan now for its young people. The country needs to invest in jobs and education.
“This large population will need a huge investment in skills for them to take advantage of the opportunities that will come up in the economy,” she said. She added that India needs to pay attention to women and girls as the population grows so they are not “pushed into early marriages and pregnancies, which limit their aspirations.”
The U.N. asked over 1,000 Indians questions about their concerns related to population growth. Sixty-three percent said they were worried about economic issues, followed by the environment and health and human rights.
In China, a foreign ministry spokesperson responded to the U.N.’s report and noted that the most important thing is not a country’s population, but its ability to get the most out of the people it has.
“The population is important,” said Wang Wenbin. “So is talent,” he said, noting “quality” is more important than “quantity.”
I’m Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on reports by the Associated Press and Reuters.
Words in This Story
census –n. a count of a nation’s people
decade –n. a period of 10 years
birth rate –n. the number of babies born in a year
demographic –n. information or qualities taken together about a large group
dividend –n. a regular payment from some kinds of investments
impoverished –adj. being in a state of poverty, having little money
aspiration –n. a goal or hope of doing something
talent –n. a special ability or skill that a person has
quantity –n. the number of something, such as people in a country
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