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Population: Boon or Bane

GS Paper 1

 Syllabus: Population related issues


Source: TH 

Context: According to the UNFPA State of World Population (SOWP) Report 2023, China is projected to hand over the baton of the most populous country to India by mid-2023.


Highlights of the UN report: India will have a population of 142.86 crores by mid-2023, which is 2.9 million higher than China’s population of 142.57 crores.


Is it a dividend or a disaster for India? To answer this, there is a need to understand the –


Nature of population growth, size:

  • Population is a resource as long as the country’s carrying capacity is intact.
  • Carrying capacity is not just per capita availability of natural resources, it is a dynamic concept that changes according to changing technology, and the efficiency of the production and consumption systems of a country.


Case of India:

  • With a total fertility rate of 2.0 in 2023, India is already at replacement level fertility, meaning two children replacing their parents.
  • This indicates that the population is on a path toward stabilisation – experiencing positive growth (in a decelerated mode) until 2064 and then will become negative growth.
  • The peak of India’s population size will be around 169.6 crore in 2063.


Age composition of the population: It talks about the number of the working age population (15-64 years) against the dependent population (0-14 years and 65 years and above).


Case of India:

  • There are greater prospects for demographic dividend than a disaster.
  • With 68% of the working age population in 2023, the country continues to have a demographic window of opportunity for the next 35 years to reap an economic dividend.
  • A demographic window of opportunity in itself will not automatically turn into an economic dividend.


Mechanisms through which a country translates demographic bonus into economic dividend:

  • Employment or job creation: If India is able to generate sufficient and quality jobs for its bulging working age population.
  • Education, skills generation and ensuring a healthy lifespan: It is critical not only for better productivity but it also reduces excessive public spending and helps in greater capital creation.
  • Good governance: Reflected through conscientious policies, it will help in creating a healthy environment for increasing efficiency and productivity of the population.


Opportunities for India:

  • Declining and ageing population in Japan, China, the US and other major economies.
    • 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.
  • Potential to boost per capita GDP by an additional 43% by 2061, provided the socio-economic and political enabling environment is conducive.



  • Drastic population control methods run the risk of inducing forced population ageing.
    • A total fertility rate of less than 8 may not be economically beneficial for India. Once fertility tends to decline, it is hard to reverse it.
  • What the country needs are policies that support an enabling environment that can provide high-quality education, healthcare, employment, infrastructure, and gender empowerment.
    • If India falls short in this, its “demographic dividend” can become a “demographic disaster”.

 Conclusion: Opportunities and costs are the two sides of the coin when it comes to being the world’s largest populous country. However, the relatively younger population of India provides higher support ratios.


Insta Links:

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