India’s Population: Becoming Number One

India is poised to overtake China as the world’s most populous country by 2024. Poverty is linked to fertility rates, and individual and government attention to population trends contributes to sustainable development. Both China and India have reduced fertility rates and poverty since 1950, when each had fertility rates near six children per woman. Demographers Joseph Chamie and Barry Mirkin analyze India’s demographic trends in contrast to China’s: Both nations reduced mortality and fertility rates, and 57 percent of China’s population lives in urban areas versus 31 percent of India’s. Growth due to immigration is negligible for both countries. Challenges include an aging population, preferences for male children, fewer workers per retiree, the universal struggle to create enough jobs for those of working age as well as rising expectations for basic services. Chamie and Mirkin conclude that India must plan ahead: “The government must emphasize family planning while improving public health and the status of girls and women – or be hard pressed to sustain high rates of economic growth and meet mounting aspirations of its billion-plus inhabitants.” – YaleGlobal