India becomes the world’s most populous nation; 50% below 25 years: UNFPA

The report also shows India's greying population is significantly less than other major economies
Last Updated : 20 April 2023, 02:44 IST

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As India surpasses China to become the world’s most populous nation, the UN on Wednesday said that with 50 per cent of its population below 25 years, India would be having a time-bound opportunity to benefit from the demographic dividend.

Besides, as the country with the largest youth cohort India's 254 million youngsters (15-24 years) could be a source of innovation, new thinking and lasting solutions, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said in its world population report, 2023 that estimated India’s population as 1428.6 million against China’s 1425.7 million.

“The trajectory can leapfrog (India) forward if women and girls in particular are equipped with equal educational and skill building opportunities, access to technology and digital innovations, and most importantly with information and power to fully exercise their reproductive rights and choices,” it noted.

The report also shows India's greying population is significantly less than other major economies. Just about 7 per cent of India’s population is over 65 years old as against 10 per cent in Brazil, 14 per cent in China, 18 per cent in the USA and 30 per cent in Japan. In most of the European nations, nearly one-fifth of the population is over 65 years.

“India’s story is a powerful one. It is a story of progress in education, public health and sanitation, economic development as well as technological advancements,” said Andrea Wojnar, Representative UNFPA India.

“As the national fertility rate falls below 2.1 (the replacement level), India is at a unique historical opportunity, witnessing a great demographic transition as youthful nation, with a notable demographic diversity across states to convert the potential demographic dividend into economic benefits through additional investments in health, education, and quality jobs for young people - including targeted investments in women and girls.”

Though some of the estimates were made by the UNFPA last year when the world population crossed the 8 billion mark, the new report provides a closer look at the world demography looking at individual countries and provides some hint on what lies in the future.

It shows how global demographics will change in the next 25 years. Eight nations - three Asian and five African - will account for half of the projected growth in global population by 2050. They are Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania.

As a part of the report, the UN agency carried out an online eight-country survey in which the participants were asked about their worries on population. The countries represented in the survey are India, Brazil, Egypt, France, Hungary, Japan, Nigeria and the USA.

Of the 1,007 adult Indians surveyed, 63 per cent identified economic woes as their top concerns followed by environmental concerns.

“The Indian survey findings suggest that population anxieties have seeped into large portions of the general public. Yet, population numbers should not trigger anxiety or create alarm. Instead, they should be seen as a symbol of progress, development, and aspirations if individual rights and choices are being upheld,” the UNFPA report advised.

Global experience, according to the UN, has shown that family planning targets can lead to gender-based discrimination and other harmful practices.

Deleterious effects of such targets include prenatal sex determination leading to sex selective abortion and imbalanced sex ratios, preferential health and nutrition for male children, denial of the paternity of female children, violence against women for giving birth to girl children, and coercion of women to have fewer or greater numbers of children.

Published 19 April 2023, 05:22 IST

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