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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS  India as most populous can be more boon than bane


Source: The Hindu


  • Prelims: Current events of national importance(total fertility rate (TFR), NFHS, Population bill, Fertility rate, SDGs etc)
  • Mains GS Paper I & II: Social empowerment, development and management of social sectors/services related to Health.


  • China is projected to hand over the baton of the most populous country to India by mid-2023.




Population growth, size, composition:

  • The nature of population growth, size and its composition decides when a population becomes a “resource” or a “burden”.
  • Population is a resource as long as the country’s carrying capacity is intact.
    • Carrying capacity is the per capita availability of natural resources. It changes according to:
      • changing technology
      • The efficiency of production
      • Consumption systems of a country.


Trends of population growth, size and composition:

  • United Nation reports: It suggests that India will have a population of 143 crore(approx) by mid-2023, which is 9(two point nine)million higher than China’s population of 143 crore(approx).
  • Total fertility rate of 0 in 2023: India is at replacement level fertility(meaning two children replacing their parents).
    • This indicates that the population is on a path toward stabilization.
  • It continues to experience positive growth, but in a decelerated mode until 2064, from which point it will become negative growth.
  • The peak of India’s population size will be around 6(one sixty nine point six)crore in 2063.
  • Age composition of the population: Available support ratios in the form of the number of the working age population (15-64 years) against the dependent population (0-14 years and 65 years and above).
    • 68% of the working age population in 2023
  • India has a demographic window of opportunity for the next 35 years to reap an economic dividend.


Mechanisms that translate a demographic bonus to economic dividend:

  • Employment or job creation:
    • It is an important mechanism to translate demographic bonus to economic dividend.
    • If India is able to generate sufficient and quality jobs for its bulging working age population, realization of demographic dividend will become a reality.
  • Education, skills generation and ensuring a healthy lifespan by preventing diseases and disabilities are also important channels that translate demographic opportunity into economic gains.
    • A skilled and healthy workforce is critical not only for better productivity of an economic activity
    • It also reduces excessive public spending and helps in greater capital creation.
  • Good governance: It is reflected through conscientious policies
    • It helps in creating a healthy environment for increasing efficiency and productivity of the population.


Benefits of higher population for India:

  • A relatively younger population of India provides higher support ratios
    • There is less disease, disability and caring burden.
  • It must be looked at in comparison to the consequences of population decline and ageing across some countries that include Japan, China, the United States and other major economies.
    • Majority of them have been implementing pronatalist policies to improve birth rates.
    • The actions have shown to be largely ineffective.
  • Once fertility tends to decline, it is hard to reverse it.
  • India has the potential to become a worldwide market for both production and consumption
    • With lower manufacturing costs due to a relatively cheaper workforce.
    • This is very much evident in India’s IT sector.
  • Available demographic opportunity in the form of a greater share of the working age population has the potential to boost per capita GDP by an additional 43% by 2061
    • Provided the socio-economic and political enabling environment is conducive.


Fertility rate:

  • The fertility rate at a given age is the number of children born alive to women of that age during the year as a proportion of the average annual population of women of the same age

Total fertility rate (TFR):

  • It refers to the total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her lifetime if she were subject to the prevailing rate of age-specific fertility in the population.



India’s Population Issues:



Way Forward

  • The availability of a demographic window of opportunity in itself will not automatically turn into economic dividend.
    • The country needs to work on the key mechanisms which translate a demographic bonus into economic dividend.
  • A total fertility rate of less than 8(one point eight) may not be economically beneficial for India.
    • Therefore, drastic population control methods run the risk of inducing forced population ageing.
      • It would result in the nation “getting old before getting rich”.
    • More than climate change and economic harm the damage is due to invisible and unsustainable production, consumption and unequal distribution more than visible population size.
    • The country needs policies that support an enabling environment that can provide high-quality education, good health care, respectable employment opportunities, good infrastructure, and gender empowerment.
      • If India falls short in this, its “demographic dividend” can become a “demographic disaster”.



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)