Population trends on Chinese social media as India to become most populous.

India will soon surpass China as the most populous country in the world and it could actually happen this month.

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) indicated in its July 2022 World Population Prospects report that India was projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2023.

“We are currently preparing a technical brief on this issue, which we expect to release during the second half of April 2023,” UNDESA’s Bela Hovy said over email.

The final announcement is yet to be made but that hasn’t stopped the subject from recently trending and being a widely discussed topic on China’s Twitter-like social media platform, Weibo.

Leading Chinese experts and citizens have weighed in on it, focussing on what it means for China, which has been the most populous country since at least 1950 when the UN began to collect and release population records.

Chinese media has also published news on the topic, comparing the situation of the two countries.

Until Tuesday, the topic had been shared and discussed some 150 million times on Weibo.

An analysis by one of China’s leading demography experts, Mu Guangzong, from the Institute of Population at the elite Beijing-based Peking University, was shared many times on Weibo.

Mu indicated that India’s population is already more than that of China’s.

“This will open a new chapter for India, which in turn sends two signals. One is that India’s large population will enhance its international standing, especially as the world’s fifth largest economy and the fastest growing economy,” Mu wrote in the article in Mandarin, which he also shared with the Hindustan Times.

“The second is that India’s emergence as the world’s most populous country means that China has become the world’s second most populous country, and will this affect China’s great power status?”

“India’s rise to the position of the world’s most populous country is a landmark event – a contest of national power cannot be conducted without considering the basic factor of population,” Mu added.

Data released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics in January showed that by the end of 2022, the mainland population was 1.41175 billion, a decrease of 850,000 compared to the end of 2021.

It was the first time China’s population had recorded negative growth since 1962.

While India was poised to become the most populated in the world in 2023, the big decrease in China’s population in 2022 means the change could come earlier than expected.

The projection by the UN’s World Population Prospects report of 2022 said, India’s population could be close to 1.429 billion by the end of 2023.

“The exact size of the country’s population is not easily known, given that India has not conducted a census since 2011 but it is estimated to have more than 1.4 billion people – greater than the entire population of Europe (744 million) or the Americas (1.04 billion),” the Washington-based Pew Research Centre said in a report in February.

“China, too, has more than 1.4 billion people, but while China’s population is declining, India’s continues to grow,” it added.

Andrea Wojner from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), India’s office in New Delhi said India surpassing China is a “symbolic development” but it gives India huge opportunities

“As a young country with the largest number of young people and young girls anywhere in the world, India has a huge opportunity to build its human capital, and thus enjoy greater economic growth as a result of this ‘youth bulge’,” Wojner, UNFPA Representative, India, and Country Director, Bhutan, said.

Wojner added: “Also, the good news is that India’s population growth appears to be stabilising. The Total Fertility Rate — the average number of children born per woman — has declined to 2.0 at the national level by 2020. A total of 31 States and Union Territories (constituting 69.7% of the country’s population) have achieved fertility rates below the replacement level of 2.1.”

She said India is a young nation with the largest cohort of young people anywhere in the world, with a huge potential to tap its demographic dividend.

“While many parts of the world are ageing, India’s youthful population can be a global resource to solve global problems.”

The Chinese expert Mu compared the two populations of India and China in his article.

“From the perspective of population age structure, 0.14% of China is aged 17-95, 15.59% is aged 63-35, and 60.18% is aged 70 and above, of which 65.13% are aged 50 and above; In India, 0.14% are aged 31-2, 15.64% are aged 63-6, and 65.5% are aged 3 and above.

It can be seen that the Indian population is young and energetic, and has great fertility potential,” Mu wrote.

Some Chinese citizens and experts shared a more critical outlook, saying that if the demographic dividend is not managed well, it could become a demographic disaster for India.

China Business News quoted leading India-China analyst, Liu Zongyi, as saying that India’s potential demographic dividend has a time window.

“Indian experts warn that by 2035, the proportion of India’s elderly population in the total population will rise significantly, the demographic structure will no longer be pyramid-shaped, and the window of demographic dividend will end.”

Whether India can successfully use its potential demographic dividend and turn it into a driving force for economic growth fundamentally depends on whether the Indian government can introduce effective economic, social and educational policies and implement them, Liu was quoted as saying by Chinese Business News.

UNFPA’s Wojner was more positive, and focussed on the “Gender Dividend” and the “Silver Dividend”, which India could extract.

With a median age of 29 years, India is a young country today, Wojner said, adding that the share of the working age population is expected to rise, clearly indicating the window of opportunity to boost economic development.

“Investing in women and enhancing female labour force participation rate will be crucial to tap the Gender Dividend.”

Additionally, the skilled workforce will earn and save more, which will be beneficial to reap the benefit of the second demographic dividend.

“This means that people will save and accumulate capital for meeting their expenses when they grow old and will have sufficient resources for taking care of themselves rather than depending upon the public transfers for taking care of the old persons resulting in a Silver Dividend,” the UNFPA official said.

Source- Hindustan Times.

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