Human World

Most populous country? India (probably) as of April 2023

Most populous country: Out of focus foreground of 2 men looking at crowded street below.
Observers look down at a crowded street market in Delhi, India. Sometime in April 2023, India will replace China as the world’s most populous country. Image via Shobhit Bajpai/ Pexels.

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India to replace China as most populous country

The Associated Press reported this morning (April 11, 2023) that India will likely overtake China in population sometime this month, making India the world’s most populous country. Or, if not in April 2023, then a few months from now.

Or maybe it’s already happened. It’s not possible to know an exact date.

The numbers are based on United Nations projections. The UN has been tracking world population numbers since the middle of the 20th century. See its World Population Prospects for 2022 here. That document said:

In 2022, the two most populous regions were both in Asia: Eastern and South-Eastern Asia with 2.3 billion people (29 per cent of the global population), and Central and Southern Asia with 2.1 billion (26 per cent). China and India, with more than 1.4 billion each, accounted for most of the population in these two regions.

According to UN demographers, mid-April 2023 is a likely time for India to surpass China in population.

The Pew Research Center also published an article in February 2023, suggesting mid-April as a likely date.

China has been the world’s most populous country since at least 1950, according to the UN.

Earth’s total population recently surpassed 8 billion.

Click here for estimates of historical world population

Graph showing India's population has more than doubled since 1950.
“Key facts as India surpasses China as the world’s most populous country.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (February 9, 2023).

India is a youthful population

When the United Nations began keeping its population figures in 1950, India had a billion fewer people than it does now.

And no one knows exactly how many people India has today; it hasn’t conducted a census since 2011.

But estimates from demographers put both India’s and China’s population at around 1.4 billion. And India’s population is growing, while China’s is declining. A declining population may also be also a graying population.

And the reverse can also be true. A population increase can mean more young people in a given population. That’s the case in India today. According to Pew Research, more than 40% of India’s population is under the age of 25. It is a very young country.

In fact, globally, one-in-five people who are under the age of 25 live in India.

Meanwhile, the next two most populous countries – China and the United States – have populations that are rapidly aging. People aged 65 and older make up 18% of the U.S. population and 14% of China’s population.

For India, that number of people 65 and older is just 7%.

Graph depicting more than 1 in 4 people in India are under 25 years old.
“Key facts as India surpasses China as the world’s most populous country.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (February 9, 2023).

India’s limiting factors

On the other hand, India’s fertility rate is decreasing from what it was in the early part of the 20th century. In 1950, the average Indian woman had 5.9 children. And, in 1992, the average Indian woman had 3.4 children.

Today, the number is down to 2.0 children. But that number is still higher than in China (1.2) and the U.S. (1.6).

And here’s another factor that keeps India’s population from being higher than it is now: more people move out of India each year than move in. For example, India lost about 300,000 people due to migration in 2021.

Graph on out-migration exceeding in-migration in India.
“Key facts as India surpasses China as the world’s most populous country.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (February 9, 2023).
Young girl holds onto mother, who is wearing a yellow and red scarf.
According to Pew Research, infant mortality in India has decreased 70% in the past 3 decades. Yet, it remains high by regional and international standards. Image via Ritesh Arya/ Pexels.

Bottom line: India is overtaking China as the world’s most populous country. Both currently have around 1.4 billion people. India may take the title sometime in April 2023.

Via AP

Via Pew Research Center

April 11, 2023
Human World

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