India has overtaken China as the world’s most populous nation, according to United Nations data released Wednesday.
India’s population surpassed 1.4286 billion, slightly higher than China’s 1.4257 billion people, according to mid-2023 estimates by the UN’s World Population dashboard. China’s numbers do not include Hong Kong and Macau, Special Administrative Regions of China, and Taiwan, the data showed.
The burgeoning population will add urgency for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to create employment for the millions of people entering the workforce as the nation moves away from farm jobs. India, where half the population is under the age of 30, is set to be the world’s fastest-growing major economy in the coming years.
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Asia’s third-largest economy is now home to nearly a fifth of humanity — greater than the entire population of Europe or Africa or the Americas. While this is also true for China for now, that’s expected to change as India’s population is forecast to keep ticking up and touch 1.668 billion by 2050 when China’s population is forecast to contract to about 1.317 billion.
“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 United Nations Population Fund India and Country Director Bhutan on State of the World Population Report.
India seized the top spot as it added about 23 million babies in 2022, while China’s population started shrinking for first time in six decades with about 9.56 million newborns last year.
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“I want to tell you that population dividends don’t only depend on quantity but also on quality,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Wednesday in Beijing. “China’s population is over 1.4 billion. As Premier Li Qiang pointed out, our population dividend has not disappeared, our talent dividend is forming and the impetus for development is strong.”
Overall, the world’s population is growing at its slowest rate since 1950, and the previous UN projections show it could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030 from 8 billion last year and touch 9.7 billion in 2050, before peaking at around 10.4 billion in the 2080s and remaining there until 2100.
The UN estimates that more than half of the projected increase in the global population between 2022 and 2050 to be concentrated in just eight countries: the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania.