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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS:Moving policy away from population control

Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Current events of national importance(Different social service Schemes, NFHS, populationcontrol)
  • Mains GS Paper I & II: Social empowerment, development and management of social sectors/services related to Health.


  • The United Nations’ World Population Prospects (WPP), 2022, forecasts India becoming the most populous country by 2023, surpassing China, with a 140 crore population.
  • This is four times the population India had at the time of Independence in 1947 (34 crore). Now, at the third stage of the demographic transition, and experiencing a slowing growth rate due to constant low mortality and rapidly declining fertility, India has 17.5% of the world’s population.
  • As per the latest WPP, India will reach 150 crore by 2030 and 166 crore by 2050.
  • In the 1960s, India had a population growth rate of over 2%.
    • At the current rate of growth, this is expected to fall to 1% by 2025.
  • However, there is a long way to go for the country to achieve stability in population. This is expected to be achieved no later than 2064 and is projected to be at 170 crore (as mentioned in WPP 2022).





Key Highlights of the report:

  • China and India most populous countries: According to World Population Prospects 2019, China with a 1.44 billion population and India with 1.39 billion are the two most populous countries in the world, representing 19 and 18 percent of the world’s population, respectively.
  • India taking over China: However, by around 2023, India’s population will overtake China to become the most populous country with China’s population projected to decrease by 31.4 million, or around 2.2 per cent, between 2019 and 2050.
  • Population to reach eight billion: The UN forecast also stated that the world’s population is expected to reach eight billion.
  • Net drop in birth rates: While a net drop in birth rates is observed in several developing countries, more than half of the rise forecast in the world’s population in the coming decades will be concentrated in eight countries, the report said.
    • Eight countries are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania.
  • Challenge to SDGs: Many are projected to double in population between 2022 and 2050, putting additional pressure on resources and posing challenges to the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Older age population growth: The population of older persons is increasing both in numbers and as a share of the total.
  • Sustained drop in fertility: A sustained drop in fertility has led to an increased concentration of the population at working ages (between 25 and 64 years), creating an opportunity for accelerated economic growth per capita.
  • Migration: International migration is having an important impact on population trends in some countries.
    • Over the next few decades, migration will be the sole driver of population growth in high-income countries.
  • Covid-19: The Covid-19 pandemic has had significant demographic consequences affecting all components of population change, including mortality, fertility and migration.
    • Global life expectancy fell 1. 8 years between 2019 and 2021 due to excess mortality associated with the pandemic.
    • The impact of the pandemic on fertility is less clear-cut.


Population Status in India:

  • Achieving demographic milestone: Last year, India reached a significant demographic milestone as, for the first time, its total fertility rate (TFR) slipped to two, below the replacement level fertility (2.1 children per woman), as per the National Family Health Survey.
  • Population momentum: However, even after reaching the replacement level of fertility, the population will continue to grow for three to four decades owing to the population momentum (large cohorts of women in their reproductive age groups).
    • Post-Independence, in the 1950s, India had a TFR of six.
  • Most states attained the fertility rate of two: Several States have reached a TFR of two except for Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Manipur and Meghalaya.
  • Bottleneck problems: All these States face bottlenecks in achieving a low TFR. These include:
    • High illiteracy levels
    • Rampant child marriage
    • High levels of under-five mortality rates
    • Low workforce participation of women
    • Low contraceptive usage compared to other States.
  • Role in economic decision: A majority of women in these States do not have much of an economic or decisive say in their lives.
    • Without ameliorating the status of women in society (quality of life), only lopsided development is achievable .


Demographic dividend:

  • According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), demographic dividend means:
    • The economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, mainly when the share of the working-age population (15 to 64) is larger than the non-working-age share of the population (14 and younger, and 65 and older)”.
  • Growth of working age population: In the last seven decades, the share of the working age population has grown from 50% to 65%, resulting in a remarkable decline in the dependency ratio (number of children and elderly persons per working age population).
  • WPP 2022 report: As in the WPP 2022, India will have one of the largest workforces globally, i.e., in the next 25 years, one in five working-age group persons will be living in India.
    • This working-age bulge will keep growing till the mid-2050s, and India must make use of it.


How can India take Advantage from the Demographic Dividend?

  • Increase in Fiscal Space: Fiscal resources can be diverted from spending on children to investing in modern physical and human infrastructure that will increase economic sustainability of India.
  • Rise in Workforce: With more than 65% of the working age population, India can rise as an economic superpower, supplying more than half of Asia’s potential workforce over the coming decades.
  • Labour force: Increase in the Labour Force that enhances the productivity of the economy.
  • Women workforce: Rise in Women’s Workforce that naturally accompanies a decline in fertility, and which can be a new source of growth.


Obstacles to harnessing this demographic dividend:

  • Absence of women in workforce: India’s labour force is constrained by the absence of women from the workforce
    • only a fourth of women are employed.
  • Quality of education: The quality of educational attainments is not up to the mark
  • Lack of skills: The country’s workforce badly lacks the basic skills required for the modernized job market.
    • Having the largest population with one of the world’s lowest employment rates.
  • Male-dominant sex ratio: Another demographic concern of independent India is the male-dominant sex ratio.
    • In 1951, the country had a sex ratio of 946 females per 1,000 males.
    • In 2011, the sex ratio was 943 females per 1,000 males; by 2022, it is expected to be approximately 950 females per 1,000 males.
  • Global hunger index: India stands 101 out of 116 nations in the Global Hunger Index.
    • This is pretty daunting for a country which has one of the most extensive welfare programmes for food security through the Public Distribution System and the Midday Meals Scheme.


Serious health risks:

  • Rise in NCDs: The disease pattern in the country has also seen a tremendous shift in these 75 years.
    • While India was fighting communicable diseases post-Independence, there has been a transition towards non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the cause of more than 62% of total deaths.
  • Globally leads in NCDs: India is a global disease burden leader as the share of NCDs has almost doubled since the 1990s, which is the primary reason for worry.
    • India is home to over eight crore people with diabetes. Further, more than a quarter of global deaths due to air pollution occur in India alone.
  • Increasing ageing population: With an increasingly ageing population in the grip of rising NCDs, India faces a serious health risk in the decades ahead.
  • Inadequate health infrastructure: In contrast, India’s health-care infrastructure is highly inadequate and inefficient.
  • Low spending on healthcare: Additionally, India’s public health financing is low, varying between 1% and 1.5% of GDP, which is among the lowest percentages in the world.



India’s Population Issues:



Way Forward

  • Advance investments in the development: India is called a young nation, with 50% of its population below 25 years of age.
    • But the share of India’s elderly population is now increasing and is expected to be 12% by 2050.
    • After 2050, the elderly population will increase sharply.
    • So, advance investments in the development of a robust social, financial and healthcare support system for old people is the need of the hour.
  • Extensive investment in human capital: The focus of action should be on extensive investment in human capital, on older adults living with dignity, and on healthy population ageing.
  • Quality education and health: We should be prepared with suitable infrastructure, conducive social welfare schemes and massive investment in quality education and health.
  • Augmentation of the quality of life should be the priority: The focus should not be on population control; we do not have such a severe problem now. Instead, an augmentation of the quality of life should be the priority.
  • Capacity building: Building capacity among health workers, addressing intersectionality,engaging men in the discourse of family planning, and drafting innovative solutions through effective public and private partnerships can greatly improve access to family planning services and the overall health of our younger population.
  • Fulfilling Health Related Requirements: More finance for health as well as better health facilities from the available funding needs to be ensured and reproductive healthcare services need to be made accessible on a rights-based approach.
  • Federal Approach for Diverse States: A new federal approach to governance reforms for demographic dividend will need to be put in place for policy coordination between States on various emerging population issues such as migration, ageing, skilling, female workforce participation and urbanization.



  1. Despite Consistent experience of high growth, India still goes with the lowest indicators of human development. Examine the issues that make balanced and inclusive development elusive. (UPSC 2021)

(200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)