NEW DELHI, April 19 (Reuters) – India is poised to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by the middle of this year, with nearly 3 million more people than its neighbors, data released by the United Nations showed on Wednesday.
According to this year’s United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) “World Population Report”, India’s population is estimated at 1.4286 billion at mid-year, 2.9 million short of China’s 1.4257 billion.
The United States is a distant third, with a population of 340 million at the end of June, data showed in a report reflecting information available through February.
Demographers have predicted India’s population will surpass China’s this month using earlier UN data, but the global body’s latest report did not specify a date.
India’s last census was held in 2011, and UN population officials said the date could not be fixed because of uncertainty over data from India and China, which was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021.
Although both countries account for one-third of the estimated world population of 8.045 billion, population growth in both is slowing, albeit much faster in China than in India.
Last year, China’s population fell for the first time in six decades, a historic turn that is expected to lead to a long-term decline in the number of citizens, with profound implications for its economy and the world.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the demographic dividend depends not only on quantity, but also on quality.
“Population is important but skills are also important… China has taken serious measures to respond to population aging,” Wang told reporters on Wednesday.
“As Prime Minister Li Keqiang pointed out, our demographic dividend has not disappeared. Our talent dividend is multiplying, and the impetus for growth remains strong,” he said.
There was no official reaction from India on the data, with a Union minister saying it was not discussed in Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.
India’s annual population growth has averaged 1.2% since 2011, up from 1.7% in the previous decade, government data show.
In a general review of the UNFPA 2023 report, the report said that the general perception in India, Brazil, Egypt and Nigeria was that the population was “too large and the fertility rate too high” in each country. .
“The Indian survey findings show that demographic concerns have permeated large sections of the general population,” the agency’s India representative, Andrea Wojner, said in a statement.
“Yet population numbers should not inspire concern or create alarm. Instead, they should be seen as a sign of progress, growth and aspirations, if individual rights and choices are upheld.”
India has done many things right in dealing with population growth, said Poonam Mudreja, officer of the Voluntary Committee of the Population Foundation of India.
“At the same time, we must ensure that girls and women are not forced into early marriages and pregnancies that limit their aspirations,” she said in a statement.
Reporting by YP Rajesh, additional reporting by Krishnan Kaushik; Editing by Aurora Ellis
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