Factual Truths Behind India’s Population

The world has 7.3 billion humans; this figure is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion by the beginning of the next century. More than one third of these people live in China and India. ‘Population explosion’, India’s Population- a ticking bomb’ ‘population juggernaut’ are some of the terms we have been associating with India and India’s population growth.

I remember reading India will surpass China as the most populous country by 2050, then a few years back it was revised to 2028. But our country seems to be in a hurry to win the race, India’s current population is around 1.31 billion, while China’s the world most populous country (not for long) is 1.38 billion. By 2022 both the two rivals are expected to meet at the 1.4 billion population juncture. China as a result of the demographic transition and strict family planning policies will do a slow and steady u-turn with its population becoming stagnant till 2030 and starting to decline slowly. India during the same time would be still climbing the ladder to 1.5 billion in 2030 and 1.7 billion in 2050. The trend will start reversing only towards the end of the century when the population is expected to start falling and reach 1.66 billion by the year 2100.

By the beginning of the next century less than one-fourth of the population would only be living in these two nation.

A look at the future along with the present and past-

Demographic Transition:

India is expected to follow the demographic transition trend of all matured and developed nations. India is currently somewhere is at at the juncture of beginning of the 4th Stage of demographic transition curve. In simple terms in this cusp the Death Rate, which had been declining on a considerably fast phase starts to steady out, while birth rates keep declining at a faster rate. Statistically, that is exactly what is happening death rate have reduced from 7.3 to 7 only in the last 5 years (2009 to 2013). This is along with life expectancy at 69 near the world average of 71 and 79 in developed nations. During the same time birth rates have fallen from 22.5 to 21.4. This is consistent with the fact that India is moving towards the later stages of a developing nation.

Median Age:

India and its Demographic dividend are a common topic. Yes India has a young population with nearly half of it population aged less than 30, with the median age of the population at 26.6 years. Though India has a young and booming population, and India is reaping the benefits of low dependency, it is not like it’s a new event. At the start of the 21st century the median age was around 22.7 at the time of Independence around 21 years. So, actually the median age has been on an increase. This trend will continue with median age expected to be around 37 years and 47 years by the middle and end of the century.

These are projections about the future. But how and why this will happen is quite interesting. Fact & figures that support India’s Population Shift are:

TFR the reflector of the future:

TFR or the Total Fertility Rate is the number of child a women gives birth to in her life. India’s TFR was somewhere around 5.9 in the 1950’s as compared to current 2.3. We are just round the corner of Replacement level Fertility mark (Three Cheers to that).  As we know only a women can give birth, so in order to be able to maintain the population at current levels a woman need to replace herself, her partner and a portion extra for contingencies. Thus 2.1 is considered to be the replacement level fertility in in developed and developing countries (barring underdeveloped countries where the figure is higher as infant mortality and death rate have to be take into consideration).

10 of the 20 big states in India have sub-replacement TFR, with Odisha at the crossover point of 2.1. West Bengal having the lowest TFR at 1.6 on an average (the state, with one of the highest population density at 1029 people per sq km). The main problem areas at the moment are Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan with TFR at 3.4, 3.1 and 2.8.

On an average India is expected to cross the sub-replacement threshold post 2030, reaching 1.86 by mid-century and 1.8 by end of it. (This is laudable especially in a country like India open conversation about family planning and birth control is completely banned. Still the figures are promising with nearly half of the married women aged 15-49 using some form of contraception.)

The question is then WHY:

If actually the outlook is positive and figures support it then why, why are we not able to see the change around us, why can we only see people and more people?? ‘Rome was not built in a day’, we can win the battle but it’s a slow process and will take time. India is a developing nation where health services are improving, life expectancy is rising, IMR, U5MR are on the fall, maternal and neo-natal care are much better. Even with a slower birth rate and falling TFR we will keep adding to the total population count till the Life Expectancy doesn’t cap out and Death and Birth Rates don’t coincide.