New Delhi: As of the latest census data — from 8 years ago — India’s population stands at over one billion, with 532 million males and 496 million females. The US Department of Commerce’s Census Bureau expects India to outrank China as the world’s most populous country by 2050, with a population of around 1.6 billion.
Click here for an audio interview of AR Nanda, executive director of the Population Foundation in Delhi
Overpopulation has long been bemoaned as the root cause of social problems in developing countries: poverty, HIV/AIDS, inadequate education, and malnutrition, among others. For the last 13 years, nations world-wide have observed World Population Day on 11 July, with the aim of focusing policy makers’ attention on, and raising public awareness about, these issues.
This World Population Day, the UN’s focus is on investing in women. Females comprise the majority of the world’s poor, and while the economic crisis has hit everybody hard the impact has been disproportionate, with women and young girls being hit the hardest.
“I call on decision-makers to protect women’s ability to earn income, keep their daughters in school, and obtain reproductive health information and services, including voluntary family planning,” writes UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement for World Population Day.
The United Nations Population Fund stresses the particular importance of reproductive health, as pregnancy and childbirth continue to be the leading killers of women in the developing world. It is estimated that family planning and maternal health services would reduce the number of maternal deaths by 40 percent, as well as allow women to remain healthier and more productive -- benefiting families, and eventually entire nations.
Investing in women is emphasized as being a direct way to buoy a country’s economic performance and spur long-term growth – women are more likely to spend their earnings on a child’s health or education, and women are often directly responsible for the welfare of a family unit. Additionally, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the UNFPA’s executive director, points out that investments in reproductive health measures like contraceptives are very cost-effective, as they drastically diminish the need for public spending on social services like health and education.