India Milestone Is a 'Big Moment in Human History'

Nation is about to overtake China as most populous nation, if it hasn't already
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 15, 2023 7:40 AM CDT
India Milestone Is a 'Big Moment in Human History'
Hindu devotees listen to a religious leader during the annual Magh Mela festival in Prayagraj, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Jan. 31, 2023.   (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

India will surpass China's population this month. Or maybe in July. Or, perhaps it's happened already? Demographers are unsure exactly when India will take the title as the most populous nation in the world because they're relying on estimates to make their best guess. But they know it's going to happen soon, if it hasn't occurred by now, per the AP. China has had the most people in the world since at least 1950, the year United Nations population data began. Both China and India have more than 1.4 billion people, and combined they make up more than a third of the world's 8 billion people.

Mathematical calculations from a range of surveys, as well as birth and death records, project that India will overtake China sometime in the middle of April. But demographers warn that it should be taken with a grain of salt since the numbers are fuzzy and could be revised. “It's a crude approximation, a best guess,” said Patrick Gerland, chief of the population estimates and projections section at the UN in New York. Not long ago, India wasn't expected to become most populous until later this decade. But the timing has been sped up by a drop in China's fertility rate, with families having fewer children.

There's more than bragging rights at stake over which nation is the world's most populous—there are social and economic consequences. In India, that means a growing labor force and growth that sparks economic activity. In China, that means fewer working-age adults able to support an aging population. “Psychologically, it will be tough for China, especially given the rivalry in other areas between the two countries,” said Stuart Gietel-Basten, a professor at Khalifa University of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi. “It is a big moment in human history as the baton is passed to India."

(More India stories.)

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