In a milestone for humanity, the global population hit 8 billion on 15 November 2022, after having added a billion people in the last 12 years. The United Nations described it as a moment to celebrate and an occasion to reflect upon the daunting challenges population growth brings with it.
Context and its analysis:
- As the global population reaches 8 billion, India, formerly a powerful driver of the number of people on the planet, is experiencing a marked slowdown.
- Falling fertility rates in the South Asian country have forced at least one state to consider reviewing policies that encouraged families not to go beyond having two children.
- The world’s population is estimated by the United Nations to have hit 8 billion on Nov. 15, with China and India accounting for more than a third of the total. India estimates its population at 1.38 billion, slightly lower than the 1.4 billion that the World Bank estimates for China.
- India will become the most populous country in 2023, according to the United Nations.
- But India’s annual population growth has averaged 1.2% since 2011, compared with 1.7% in the 10 years previously, government figures show.
- Further slowing can be expected. India’s total fertility rate (TFR) – children per woman – fell to 2 in the latest assessment period, for 2019-2021, from 3.4 in 1992-93, according to a government report issued last month. It estimated that the average must be 2.1 for the population to reproduce itself.
- As India invests in its younger people, it needs to make plans for a demographic transition to take better care of a greater proportion of older people in the future
- The human population reaches 8 billion. Biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution, deforestation, water and food shortage – these are all exacerbated by our huge and ever-increasing numbers. Our impact on the environment is a product of our consumption and our numbers.
- TFR varies significantly across the socio-economic groups, it is concentrated among economically weaker section of the society which has implications on our SDGs, poverty, hunger, malnutrition, health, education etc.
- Jobs are not created at the rate it should be and growth is uneven.
- We have short window of opportunity, it is important to nurture and exploit this population growth to the best economic advantages is a challenge.
- Challenge is how we raise India’s economic status from being low middle country to atleast high middle income.
- Share of older people is rising rapidly, growth for older people is 70% from now to 2050 but total population is growing only by 56%.
- The aspiration of the women and families have changed with time, they now want fewer children but lack access to family planning. This is evident from one report which says that there is 13% unwanted fertility in India.
- Real challenge is quality of life, 21% of 60 plus population is suffering from chronic morbidities.
- Unequal rate of population growth among states.
- The solutions to population are proven, affordable and available: women’s empowerment, universal quality education, accessible healthcare and fairer shares of our world’s resources. What’s lacking is the honesty to acknowledge this elephant in the room, and the commitment to act.
- It is very necessary to create growth momentum, investment should be adequately made in key infrastructure areas, social infrastructure and that to particularly education, water, and health.
- Family planning is a preventive measure in bringing down maternal and child mortality rate.
- China and Japan have controlled their population by various measures, the same can be adopted by us according to our suitability.
- Proper healthcare facilities to women, education to girl child.
- Analysts believe that India’s growing population can be a double-edged swordand the country needs to put in place the right policies to maximize the potential of its people by enhancing the state of education, health and infrastructure, so that India figures at better in various human development rankings.
- It is imperative that policy-makers deal with the situation on multiple fronts.
- Universal education, value-added skills accretion and massive growth in employment in the formal sectors should be the key focus areas.
- Unfulfilled aspirations of the youth can quickly turn to frustration, leading to violent outbursts. There is also a need to engage with the youth and create an enabling environment for entrepreneurship.
- Failure to do so would not just mean a missed opportunity in terms of harnessing the demographic dividend, but the ensuing rise in unemployment and poverty could undermine the advances made on the economic front and foment societal upheaval.