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UN population report: India becomes world’s most populous nation

GS Paper 1

 Syllabus: Population and Associated Issues


Source: IE

 Context: According to the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) State of World Population (SOWP) report 2023 – ‘8 Billion Lives, Infinite Possibilities’India is now the most populous country in the world.


Highlights of the report:

TotalThe population of the world is 8,045 million.
The largest share (age)Out of this, the largest share (65%) is of people between the ages of 15 – 64 years, followed by those in the 10-24 years group (24%).


10% of the population is above 65 years of age.

The largest share (region)The world’s two most populous regions are Eastern and South-Eastern Asia [2.3 billion people – 29% of the global population]; and


Central and Southern Asia [2.1 billion – 26%].

The largest share (countries)China and India accounted for the largest populations in these regions, with more than 1.4 billion each in 2022.
The outlook for population growthWhile numbers will continue to grow for several decades, the rate of global population growth has fallen (<1% since 2020 compared to 5% in 1950).


This is largely due to declining fertility – around two-thirds of people live in areas with a total fertility rate </=2.1 children per woman → replacement fertility rate/zero-growth fertility rate.


It is international migration (due to war, and famines, among other reasons) that is now the driver of growth in many countries, with 281 million people living outside their country of birth in 2020.


South Asia clocks some of the highest emigration trends, with India seeing an estimated net outflow of 3.5 million between 2010 and 2021 (Pakistan has the highest net flow).

What contributed to the global population growth?Increasing life expectancy (among men – 71 years while among women – 76 years). This also means that parts of the world, such as Japan, have a rapidly ageing population.
ProjectionsThe global population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion in 2100.


Central and Southern Asia is expected to become the most populous region in the world by 2037.


More than half of the projected increase in global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in eight countries – Congo (DRC), Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania.


Once fertility rates drop in high-fertility regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, the global population will start to decline.


India specific findings
India now has 1,428.6 million people, outstripping China’s population. India’s growth rate has dropped to <1% from 2.3% in 1972.

68% of India’s population belongs to the 15-64 years category, and 26% in the 10-24 years group, making India one of the youngest countries in the world.

The total fertility rate in India has been steadily dropping [NFHS-5 (2019-21)- 2.0, less than the replacement level of 2.1].

Increased use of contraceptive methods, spacing, access to health care, and increasing wealth and education, has contributed to this decline. 

Life expectancy for men in India is 71 years (same as global figures), while it is marginally lower for women at 74 years.

India’s large population is a result of the “population momentum” from earlier decades, and the country’s population is likely to start its decline closer to 2050.

GoodBadTakeaway for India
Opportunity for India – Demographic dividend.

68% of its population is the youth/working population.

The population in many countries, like Japan and South Korea, are on the decline.

India could have one of the largest workforces in the world, giving it a global advantage (skilled labour to countries which will be in dire need), and spurring its economic growth.

Increasing dependency: A declining fertility rate is accompanied by an ageing population.



Demographic disaster: If India fails to capitalise on its demographic dividend/fails to educate and skill its youth.



Delays in conducting Census exercises can have adverse consequences.



The population estimates in the UNFPA report are higher than India’s own.



According to the Census Office, India’s population in 2023 was expected to be only 1,388 million (about 139 crores).



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