India may overtake China as most populous country sooner than UN projections: Report


India, All India

India is expected to add nearly 273 million people to its population between now and 2050

In 2019, India had an estimated population of 1.37 billion. (Representational Image)

Beijing: Chinese demographers say India will become the world's most populous country earlier than the United Nations' projection of 2027, surpassing China where a steady drop in the birth rate has been recorded in the last few years.

India is expected to add nearly 273 million people to its population between now and 2050, a UN report said in 2019, forecasting that the country will cross China as the world's most populous country by 2027. India will remain the most populated country through the end of the current century, the report said.

In 2019, India had an estimated population of 1.37 billion and China 1.43 billion, according to the UN figures.

The once-in-a-decade census released by China on Tuesday said China's population grew at its slowest pace to reach 1.41178 billion, keeping its status as the world's most populous country amid official projections that the numbers may decline from next year.

The drop in population was expected to lead to labour shortages and a fall in consumption levels, impacting the world's second largest economy's future economic outlook.

China's state-run Global Times daily on Wednesday quoted Chinese demographers as saying that India's population may overtake China's well before 2027.

With the Chinese birth fertility rates expected to drop in the coming years, demographers predicted that India with its much higher fertility rate will overtake China as the world's most populous country by 2023 or 2024, earlier than the last UN prediction in 2019, the daily's report said.

Lu Jiehua, professor of sociology at Peking University, said China's population may peak by 2027 before it starts to decline. Some demographers believe the peak may come as soon as 2022.

China is also facing the risk of falling into the trap of low fertility, as it recorded 12 million births in 2020, marking a drop for the fourth consecutive year.

China's total fertility rate of women of childbearing age was 1.3, a relatively low level.

The global fertility rate was 2.5 in 2019, as per the UN's World Fertility and Family Planning, 2020, report. Liang Jianzhang, an economics professor at Peking University, told the Global Times that China's fertility rate will continue to drop in the coming years, and may become the world's lowest.

"According to the existing data, in the next 10 years, the number of women aged 22 to 35, which is the childbearing period, will drop by more than 30 per cent compared with the present data”, he said.

“Without strong policy intervention, China's new-born population is likely to fall below 10 million in the next few years, and its fertility rate will be lower than Japan's, perhaps the lowest in the world," Liang predicted.

In view of the demographic crisis, China stopped the one-child policy in 2016 and allowed two children, but it has had very limited impact to halt the declining population as few people came forward to have a second child.

China is expected to lift all restrictions on the number of children that a couple can have.