India to overtake China as world's most populous country

India is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country in just eight years, according to a new United Nations report.

China, currently home to 1.43 billion people, and India, just behind with 1.37 billion, have long been the two most populous countries on earth, together making up 37 per cent of the entire global population.

But the UN’s 2019 World Population Prospects report has India’s population growing by nearly 273 million people between 2019 and 2050, surpassing China around 2027.

China’s population is projected to shrink by 31.4 million during that time.

China officially scrapped its “one-child policy” at the beginning of 2016 after 35 years, amid growing concerns over an ageing population and a shrinking labour pool. But the move has done little to counteract the country’s sharply declining birth rate. New births in China fell to 15.23 million in 2018, the lowest official birth rate since 1961. 

Meanwhile, India has been grappling with population control for decades, with some success. A 2018 report by the United Nations Population Fund noted that India's average fertility rate between 2015 and 2020 was 2.3 children per women, compared to 4.97 between 1975 and 1980. The report identified India as a country that had made gains in human development, reflected in improved health, better education opportunities and decreases in child mortality.

By the end of the century, the ranking of the five largest countries is expected to be India on top with nearly 1.5 billion, followed by China with just under 1.1 billion, Nigeria with 733 million, the United States with 434 million, and Pakistan with 403 million.

The total world population is expected to be around 8.5 billion by 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050, compared to 7.7 billion today.

- Asia Media Centre