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India is projected to surpass China as the world's most populous country around 2027, according to current projections made in the report. (Pradeep Gaur/Mint )
India is projected to surpass China as the world's most populous country around 2027, according to current projections made in the report. (Pradeep Gaur/Mint )

India, projected to surpass China as the world's most populous country around 2027: UN report

  • The report has highlighted the higher fertility rates, growing older population and migration are few reasons for projections of the population growth
  • Health experts have called for more investment in healthcare sector in the country

UNITED NATIONS : Around 2027, India is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country, a United Nations (UN) report released on Monday said.

UN department of economics and social affairs, Population division (2019), came up with the World Population Prospects 2019 stating that the largest increases in population between 2019 and 2050 will take place in-- India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt and the United States of America.

The report has highlighted the higher fertility rates, growing older population and migration are few reasons for projections of the population growth. Health economists claim that the major implications of population growth will be increase in young and older population that will face a lack of resources in future. “The major implication will be on the demographic dividend. We will have more young people as well as older people. The employment rates are going down in India and with more younger people, India wont’ be able to absorb them in workforce and won’t be able reap it the benefits of its demographic dividend," said Arup Mitra, a professor at Institute of Economic Growth.

“India becoming the most populous country will prove to be a waste of money and waste of resources. There will be a rise in equality, and the country will have to work out a mechanism to tackle these problems. A high population with no jobs may become a threat to the economy and the current challenges will become harder," he said.

According to its own admission, the ministry of health and family welfare, among the various reasons for most problems associated with providing healthcare and unemployment, social security etc., population growth is one of the factors in India.

Health experts have called for more investment in healthcare sector in the country. “As India is poised to soon become the world’s most populous country, we need to invest more in health, education and women empowerment as they are the key contributors both to slowing down population growth and accelerating development," said Professor K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India.

“We will have to utilize the opportunity provided by a large segment of youth while preparing to deal with the health needs of the expanding elderly population. Investing in a skilled health workforce can both draw dividend from the youth segment while meeting the health needs of the elderly not only in India but across the world," he said.

However, the population of India in 2019 is 1.37 billion, which is 2.3 million (0.2%) less than the previous estimate from the 2017 revision. This decrease results from slightly lower levels of total fertility rate following the availability of new estimates from the 2015-2016 National Fertility and Health Survey (NFHS-4) and from the Sample Registration System (SRS) for 2016, and increased estimates of out-migration.

For curbing population growth, the union health ministry in 2017 launched mission Parivar Vikas to increase access to contraceptives and Family Planning services in 146 high fertility districts. The current basket of choice has been expanded to include the new contraceptives viz. Injectable contraceptive, Centchroman and Progesterone Only Pills (POP). Also, the sterilization compensation scheme has been enhanced in 11 high focus states (8 Empowered Action Group (EAG), Assam, Gujarat, Haryana). The government has been looking for private sector to help in the cause.

Government has also been looking at the private sector for supporting its family planning program. “More support from private sector is needed and that unfortunately Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) investments have “not been forthcoming" in the area of reproductive health and family planning," said S.K. Sikdar, Deputy Commissioner, Family Planning in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The World Population Prospects 2019 estimates are based on all available sources of data on population size and levels of fertility, mortality and international migration for 235 countries or areas. For the 2019 revision, the latest assessment, 1,690 population censuses conducted between 1950 and 2018, as well as information on births and deaths from vital registration systems for 163 countries and demographic indicators from 2,700 surveys were considered. The availability of new information contributed to revise recent, as well as past, population estimates and demographic indicators.

“The increasing population won’t be able to cater to India’s growing needs of robust healthcare services in terms of hospitals, dispensaries, public health centers and other medical staff. Even the rural access to quality medical service has to be improved. The inadequate doctors in Government hospitals are also a concern for health authorities. Also, the basic facilities required in the hospitals, like medicine, furniture and equipment are not adequate to serve the population. Government’s spending on healthcare services is not up to the World Health Organization (WHO) norms of gross domestic product in healthcare," said Ajoy Khanderia, Founder, Gramin Healthcare.

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