India may have already overtaken China as the world’s most populous country in a milestone that increases Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s urgency to create more jobs and ensure the country continues its world-beating growth.
The population of the South Asian country was 1.417 billion as of the end of 2022, according to estimates by the World Population Review, an independent organization focused on population and census.
According to the latest updated figures, that’s just over 5 million compared to the 1.412 billion reported by China on Tuesday when authorities there announced their first population decline since the 1960s.
India, where half of the population is under the age of 30, is set to become the fastest growing major economy in the world in the coming years. To make the most of the demographic dividend, Modi needs to create jobs for the millions of people who enter the labor market each year as the nation moves away from agricultural jobs.
The United Nations had expected the milestone to be reached later this year. As of January 18, India’s population has already increased to 1.423 billion, according to WPR.
Another estimate by research platform Macrotrends puts the latest population of India at 1.428 billion. This comes, while the state did not publish population census data, as usual, once every decade in 2021, after population surveys were postponed due to epidemiological unrest, according to “Bloomberg” and viewed by “Al Arabiya.net.”
The government’s move last year to limit soldiers’ stay in India’s armed forces to four years illustrates the pressure on the administration to create jobs and pay retirement benefits. Modi, who is due to seek re-election by May 2024, has been pushing to improve the share of manufacturing in the economy to 25% from the current 14%.
And despite India’s rapid economic growth before Covid and its relatively strong recovery from the pandemic, some 800 million people still depend on free food rations from the government, the largest program of its kind in the world.
Currently, the third largest economy in Asia is self-sufficient in food production. It is the second largest producer of rice, wheat and sugar. As a market, India, with its growing middle class, is the largest consumer of sugar, while it is the largest importer of edible oils. It is the second largest consumer of gold and steel and the third largest buyer of crude oil. It is also home to the third largest domestic aviation market in the world.
Although India’s population growth is slowing, WPR predicts that the number will continue to rise until at least 2050.
On the other hand, China is currently experiencing a slight contraction, which Bloomberg economist Eric Chu described in his January 18th note as a “protracted growth-crushing headwind.” China’s population shrank by 850,000 in 2022 compared to last year, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
The United Nations estimates that more than half of the expected increase in the world’s population between 2022 and 2050 will be concentrated in only 8 countries: Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania.