India is now the most populous country in the world, having overtaken China in population, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said in its State of World Population (SOWP) report, ‘8 Billion Lives, Infinite Possibilities’, released recently.

Highlights of the report


  • The population of the world is 8,045 million, of which the largest share (65%) is of people between the ages of 15 and 64 years, followed by those in the 10-24 years group (24%).
  • 10 per cent of the population is above 65 years of age.

Regional distribution:

  • According to the UN’s 2022 report, the world’s two most populous regions are:
  • Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, with 2.3 billion people, representing 29 per cent of the global population; and
  • Central and Southern Asia, with 2.1 billion (26 per cent).
  • China and India accounted for the largest populations in these regions, with more than 1.4 billion each in 2022.
  • Central and Southern Asia is expected to become the most populous region in the world by 2037.

Future projections:

  • Earlier UN reports had said that the population growth in South Asia will begin to decline before 2100.
  • The latest UN projections suggest that the global population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion in 2100.
  • More than half of the projected increase in global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in eight countries:
  1. the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
  2. Egypt,
  3. Ethiopia,
  4. India,
  5. Nigeria,
  6. Pakistan,
  7. the Philippines and
  8. the United Republic of Tanzania.

Countries of sub-Saharan Africa are expected to continue growing through 2100 and to contribute more than half of the global population increase anticipated through 2050.

Outlook for population growth

  • Latest projections suggest that the rate of global population growth has fallen, and has been at less than 1 per cent since 2020.
  • This is largely due to declining fertility.
  • Around two thirds of people live in a country or area with a total fertility rate at or below 2.1 children per woman (also called “replacement fertility” rate or “zero-growth fertility” rate).
  • In 1950 the global fertility rate stood at 5.
  • Already 60% of the world’s population lives in a region where the fertility rate is below replacement level, up from 40% in 1990.

Migration as driver of growth:

  • It is international migration that is now the driver of growth in many countries, with 281 million people living outside their country of birth in 2020.
  • Migration has also occurred due to war, famines, and other catastrophes.
  • South Asia clocks some of the highest emigration trends, with India seeing an estimated net outflow of 3.5 million between 2010 and 2021.
  • Pakistan has the highest net flow of migrants of 16.5 million during the same period.

Birth rate:

  • Despite the continuing decline in the average number of births per woman, the total annual number of births has remained stable at around 140 million since the late 1980s.
  • It is due to the youthful age distribution of the global population.
  • In 2021, 134 million babies were born worldwide.
  • In the future, the number of newborns is expected to slightly increase to reach 138 million annually between 2040 and 2045, despite the continuous decline in the average number of births per woman.
  • In 2021, most births worldwide occurred in the two most populous regions—Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Life Expectancy:

  • One of the reasons for population growth globally flagged by the UNFPA has been that of increasing life expectancy.
  • Fertility rates and mortality rates have been dropping in various parts of the world with better access to health care and improving standards of living.
  • Life expectancy among men now stands at 71 years while among women it stands at 76 years.
  • Globally, life expectancy reached 72.8 years in 2019, an increase of almost 9 years since 1990.
  • Further reductions in mortality are projected to result in an average longevity of around 77.2 years globally in 2050.
  • The share of the global population aged 65 years or above is projected to rise from 10 per cent in 2022 to 16 per cent in 2050.
  • Once fertility rates drop in high fertility regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, the global population will start to decline.

Where does India stand in the big population picture?

  • The UN report states that India now has 1,428.6 million people and is the most populous country in the world, outstripping China’s population.
  • As much as 68% of India’s population belongs to the 15-64 years category, and 26% in the 10-24 years group, making India one of the youngest countries in the world.
  • Experts say that India’s large population is a result of the “population momentum” from earlier decades, and that the country’s population is likely to start its decline closer to 2050.

Fertility rate:

  • The fertility rate in India has been steadily dropping.
  • The National Family Health 5 Survey (2019-21) found that India attained a Total Fertility Rate of 2.0 for the first time, less than the replacement level of 2.1, falling from 2.2 in NFHS 4 (2015-16).

Causes of decline:

The increased use of contraceptive methods, spacing of pregnancies, access to health care and the impetus to family planning, besides increasing wealth and education, has contributed to the rate of growth of population slowing.

Life expectancy:

Life expectancy for men in India is the same as the global life expectancy of 71 years, while it is marginally lower for women at 74 years.


  • With 68% of its population as youth, and working population, India could have one of the largest workforces in the world, giving it a global advantage.
  • The population in many countries, like Japan and South Korea, are on the decline.
  • A declining fertility rate, women not having children, is accompanied by an ageing population, and one that is out of the workforce.
  • This is the situation that India now needs to capitalise on to spur its economic growth further, by educating and skilling its youth, and providing this skilled labour to countries which will be in dire need of such a work force in the near future.


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