India is expected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country by mid-2023, according to the United Nations (UN).
On Wednesday, the UN Population Fund’s (UNFPA) World Population Dashboard indicated that India’s increasing population will hit more than 1.428 billion later this year, surpassing China’s more than 1.425 billion people.
The milestone is particularly striking as China has a land mass of 3,747,877 square miles, which is nearly triple India’s 1,269,906 square miles.
Although India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson has not made an immediate comment on the milestone, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin downplayed India’s demographic milestone.
“I want to tell you that population dividends don’t only depend on quantity but also on quality,” Wang said in a media briefing on Wednesday. “Our population dividend has not disappeared, our dividend is forming, and the impetus for development is strong.”
Wang noted that China’s working population is close to 900 million and has “10.5 years of education on average.”
According to Premier Li Qiang, 15 million people in China join the workforce annually and more than 240 million people have received higher education. Wang added that the government has been taking active measures to deal with the nation’s aging population.
The country’s demographic crisis is largely attributed to China’s one-child policy that was implemented by the ruling party to control its population. Although the policy was removed in 2015, the number of births in China has continued to fall.
Peng Xizhe, a professor at Fudan University, told the Financial Times that better opportunities for younger people “resulted in later marriage and childbearing and a relatively higher proportion of the population wanting to remain single.”
Experts predict that the population of India, which is the world’s fifth-largest economy, will peak sometime this century.
“India will face a situation of population momentum for the next two to three decades before the decline in the overall population,” said Andrea Wojnar, the India representative of the UNFPA.
Some analysts believe that India’s population growth may deliver economic dividends for the nation if the government focuses on honing the skills of its relatively young workforce.
“India must utilize the window of opportunity for the demographic dividend that is currently available, but will not be able to if the pace of investment is slow,” Poonam Muttreja, the executive director of the Population Foundation of India, told Financial Times. “This means that India will have to work at a faster pace and invest in people — especially the young.”
However, unemployment has been climbing as the nation has been struggling to create enough jobs for the millions entering its labor force every year.