China Is No Longer The World’s Most Populated Country?

India’s population is expected to surpass China’s this year.

By Iqra Butt | Published

China India

China is known to be the most populous country in the world, however that may soon change as India’s population has been rapidly growing. According to the BBC, these two nations alone are home to over a third of the world’s population. So what’s leading to this phenomenon?

China is seen as a very technological nation, however it used to be an agriculture-based country. Factors such as agricultural advancements, the expansion of trade, and the growth of cities all allowed the country to flourish around the 1950s according to a paper in the Cambridge University Press. This in turn promoted migration within the country.

Millions of people moved from rural areas to cities for better jobs and living conditions. This led to increased urbanization and higher life expectancies. Ultimately, this increased China’s population.

However, in 1979, China enacted the one-child policy in an effort to curb population growth, notes the National Library of Medicine. While the policy was successful, it also had significant social and economic impacts. According to Britannica, in 2015 the one-child policy was abolished and resulted in an aging population with fewer young people to support them and modern couples rethinking having children due to the high cost of raising a family in urban areas.

So while many factors led to China’s population boom and eventual slow down, what about India? Why is the State of the World Population Report by the United Nations projecting that India’s population is expected to surpass China’s this year? There’s a few reasons as to why this could be the case.

Poverty and lack of education contribute to India’s population growth. CNN notes that as much as 60 percent of the nation lives in poverty. Consequently, they may see children as an additional source of support and money. 

Moreover, limited access to contraception and healthcare make it difficult for families to manage their fertility, especially in rural areas, identifies the Times of India. Government policies and initiatives to promote population control are largely ineffective, unlike China’s one-child policy. WorldVision also identifies factors such as lack of education, religious beliefs, and care for the elderly as why families in poverty have high birth rates.

India’s 2021 census was postponed by Covid and kept getting rescheduled until 2024, reports the BBC. India’s last census was conducted in 2011, meaning researchers might have to use old data. So while India is expected to overtake China in population, the specific numbers are all speculation based on “fragmental information”, says Patrick Gerland to BBC, who is the UN’s Chief of Population Estimates and Projection.

In a UN survey, Indians recognized that their population was too large according to the BBC. They mentioned economic issues as possible consequences of overpopulation. The government is aware, and the Prime Minister is already taking steps to address the issue, states the HindustanTimes.

Ultimately, the economic future of both China and India depend on how they address population sustainability. However, this likely isn’t a cause for concern. The UN report believes that it is a symbol of “progress and development” that people’s “rights and choices are being upheld”.