New Delhi: India is projected to become the world’s most populous country much earlier than previously estimated, equalling China’s population by 2028 even as the global population is expected to grow to 8.1 billion by 2025.
Significantly, the average age of the population will be much higher for both countries than what it is now.
A new United Nations (UN) report said that by the end of the 21st century, Nigeria could potentially displace China as the second most populous country. By 2050, the number of people in the world is expected to reach 9.6 billion and increase to 10.9 billion in the year 2100. The report, World Population Prospects: the 2012 Revision, was launched in New York on Thursday.
“At the country level, much of the overall increase (in population) between now and 2050 is projected to take place in high fertility countries mainly in Africa, as well as countries with large populations such as India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United States,” said an emailed statement from the UN information office in New Delhi.
According to the UN data, the major “net receivers of international migrants” annually in the next four decades to 2050 are expected to be the US with 1 million, Canada with 205,000 and the UK with 172,500. The major countries of “net emigration” are projected to be Bangladesh at 331,000 people annually, China at 300,000 and India at 284,000.
Bangladesh was “witnessing a population explosion so it is natural that migration from there even into India will increase”, said noted Indian demographer Ashish Bose.
In the case of India and China, both are expected to have a population of 1.45 billion each by 2028, the UN statement said, adding, “Thereafter India’s population will continue to grow for several decades to around 1.6 billion and then decline slowly to 1.5 billion in 2100. The population of China, on the other hand, is expected to start decreasing after 2030, possibly reaching 1.1 billion in 2100.”
Bose said the fact that India would overtake China in population in this century “is an old projection”.
He agreed it was significant, however, that India was projected to equal or overtake China’s population by 2028, much earlier than the previously expected 2035 or 2045.
“This only shows India’s family planning or family welfare programmes have not been successful the way they have been implemented. People should be given education and then this must be left to them to plan their families,” Bose said.
Amitabh Kundu, professor at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said, “A growing active population is a great advantage for a country, but only if the government plans for the economic and social development. If the government fails to provide employment to the growing active population, there is a risk of political instability as the restlessness in the younger population grows.”
According to the UN report, “Nigeria’s population is expected to surpass that of the United States before the middle of the (21st) century,” the statement said, adding that by 2100, “Nigeria could start to rival China as the second most populous country in the world.”
By 2100, several countries— mostly from Africa—could have a population of over 200 million, the release said. These include Indonesia, Tanzania, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda and Niger.
Data from the UN report projected a decline in the percentage of population in the 0-14 age group category in India—from 29.4% in 2013 to 15.9% in 2100—reflecting an increase in the age profile of the population.
In the “active” age group of 15-59, India’s population was expected to decline from the current 62.6% to 53.9% by the end of the 21st century. The percentage of population over 60 is expected to rise to 30% by 2100 from the current 8.3% while the percentage of those over 80 is expected to rise from 0.8% in 2013 to 7.5% in 2100, the UN said.
In China and India, the average age of the population was projected to be in the mid-40s by 2100. In the case of China, the current average age of 35.4 years was expected to rise to 46.9 by 2100.
As for India, the average age of the population is expected to climb to 44.3 years by 2100 from the current 26.4. This is above the global average age, now 29.2 and expected to reach 41.2 by 2100.
“This (increase in average age) is because the fertility of the Indian population is declining and will continue to decline,” Leela Visaria, honorary professor at the Gujarat Institute of Development Research, said over the phone. “An older average population is not good for any economy as the older people will have to be supported by the younger generation. We will have to consider retiring the older population later for the economy to sustain itself.”
“We have to internally restructure the economy in such a way that the people can contribute more. We will need more automation of the industries, so that less people are required to work,” she said.
In terms of life expectancy, the average for India by the year 2100 is projected to be 80.6 years, rising dramatically from the current 66.3 years.
“I would place emphasis on the morbidity rate. It is important that the quality of life improves with less prevalence of diseases, lifestyle or otherwise,” Bose said.
By comparison, China’s life expectancy was expected to rise from the present 75.2 years to 85.3 years by 2100. This is against the global average of 70 years at present that will rise to 81.8 by the end of this century.
Infant mortality rates in India were also expected to see a dramatic decline from the current 43.8 deaths per 1,000 live births to 6.6 by 2100—below the world average of 8.2 projected for 2100.
India was also projected to improve its under-five mortality deaths per 1,000 live births—with the number declining from the current 55.8 to 8.1 by 2100.