Will India’s population rise to 2 billion?

India is now the world’s second-most-populated country, next to China.

It’s very interesting to read the projection series of the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) of Washington D.C. on India’s still-growing population. PRB also hosted an online discussion on October 17, 2007 – about this subject. The online discussion was called Will India’s Population Reach 2 Billion?

Realize that 2 billion is a very large number. The entire global population is now nearly 6.8 billion now, with 9 billion expected by 2050.

The question posed by the PRB is whether India will reach a population of 2 billion by 2100. The CIA World Factbook reports that India has a population of approximately 1,166,079,217 people. It’s already the world’s second-most-populated country next to China. The earlier PRB study – described in this BBC article from 2004 – suggested that India will overtake China in population in this century. That would make India the country on Earth with the biggest population.

India population map 2006According to the PRB, the impending population boom in India will be driven by the number of young Indians alive today, under the age of 15. This group represents around 30% to 40% of people in India. They will reach child-bearing age – and their offspring will populate India’s future.

India now supports about one-sixth of the world’s entire population and has about 30 cities with a population over 1 million. That’s in contrast to only 9 cities for the U.S. with a population over 1 million. India’s inhabitants and their cities occupy only 2.4% of the world’s land area, a land area that is hemmed in on top by the mighty Himalayas.

Carl Haub of the Population Reference Bureau answered questions about India’s population online. He pointed out that India’s population is being controlled somewhat now, since a population policy instituted in 1952. He said that, in most Indian states, the child-bearing rate for women is now less than 3 children. But there is still a large rural population in India, and Haub said ” … many women in rural areas have little say on their own childbearing.”

With increasing population, India’s demographics are destined to change. The population should shift increasingly into cities, as has happened elsewhere on Earth. A more urban world is a less populous world, since children are not needed to work on farms.

India is not far behind China now in having the world’s largest population, with the U.S. a distant third. India and China both have populations of over a billion already. The U.S. population is just over 300 million. When will India overtake China in leading global population? No one knows, of course, but many online sources seemed to agree it could happen by 2050, or sooner.

Picture credits: Mosaic by Flickr user foxypard4.

Population map of India from Wikipedia Commons.

Read more from PRB:

Will India’s Population Reach 2 Billion?

Deborah Byrd