India is on track to surpass China as the most populated country in the world, according to United Nations data.
India is expected to have have 1.4286 billion people compared with China‘s 1.4257 billion by the middle of 2023, the UN population dashboard indicated – that is 2.9 million more people in the South Asian nation.
The difference stems from a rapid stagnation of population growth in China, with India previously having been expected to become the most populous country later this decade.
However, China has recorded its first population decline in 60 years as its birth rate plunged below the death rate.
In January, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said that there were 9.56 million births and 10.41 million deaths.
Much of the demographic decline has largely been linked to China’s one-child policy, which lasted 35 years and ended seven years ago, and the high costs of raising children.
Meanwhile, in contrast to China’s ageing population and stagnant growth, India has a much younger population, a higher fertility rate and has seen a decrease in infant mortality over the past three decades.
Data from World Bank shows India’s fertility rate has been steadily falling, though, from five births per woman in 1960 to just over two in 2020.
India’s yearly population growth has averaged 1.2% since 2011, down from 1.7% in the previous decade.
UN figures also show the country has the largest number of young people, with 254 million aged between 15 and 24.
Experts say it could help fuel growth in the country but could also become a liability if there are not adequate employment opportunities.
India’s population numbers have triggered public “anxieties” about the economy and healthcare, according to a survey by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
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It added that the most commonly held opinion by people in India about its population was that it was “too large and fertility rates were too high”.
Andrea Wojnar, UNFPA’s India representative, said: “Population numbers should not create alarm. Instead, they should be seen as a symbol of progress, development, and aspirations if individual rights and choices are being upheld.”
India’s and China’s combined populations make up more than a third of the world’s eight billion people.
The United States has a population of 340 million, according to UN estimates, while the UK population was estimated at 67.7 million.