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United Nations World Population Prospects


The 2022 edition of the United Nations’ World Population Prospects (WPP) was released.

  • India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2023.


GS II- Population & Associated Issues

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the World Population Prospects?
  2. Main takeaways for the global population
  3. What is the significance of India overtaking China?

What is the World Population Prospects?

  • The Population Division of the UN has been publishing the WPP in a biennial cycle since 1951.
  • Each revision of the WPP provides a historical time series of population indicators starting in 1950.
  • It does so by taking into account newly released national data to revise estimates of past trends in fertility, mortality or international migration.

Main takeaways for the global population

Pace of growth is slowing down:

  • The global population is expected to grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion in 2100. In 2020, the global growth rate fell under 1% per year for the first time since 1950.

Rates of population growth vary significantly across countries and regions:

  • More than half of the projected increase in global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in just eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania.
  • Disparate growth rates among the world’s largest countries will re-order their ranking by size. The 46 least developed countries (LDCs) are among the world’s fastest-growing.
  • Many are projected to double in population between 2022 and 2050, putting additional pressure on resources and posing challenges to the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The population of older persons is increasing both in numbers and as a share of the total:

  • The share of the global population aged 65 years or above is projected to rise from 10% in 2022 to 16% in 2050.
  • As such, the report warns that countries with ageing populations should take steps to adapt public programmes to the growing proportion of older persons, including by improving the sustainability of social security and pension systems and by establishing universal health care and long-term care systems.

A sustained drop in fertility :

  • A sustained drop in fertility has led to an increased concentration of the population at working ages (between 25 and 64 years), creating an opportunity for accelerated economic growth per capita.
  • This shift in the age distribution provides a time-bound opportunity for accelerated economic growth known as the “demographic dividend”.

 International migration

  • This is having important impacts on population trends for some countries.
  • For high-income countries between 2000 and 2020, the contribution of international migration to population growth (net inflow of 80.5 million) exceeded the balance of births over deaths (66.2 million).
  • Over the next few decades, migration will be the sole driver of population growth in high-income countries.
  • In many of these countries, the outflows were due to temporary labour movements, such as for Pakistan (net flow of -16.5 million), India (-3.5 million), Bangladesh (-2.9 million), Nepal (-1.6 million) etc.
How reliable is the UN projection, and how do they compare with India’s Census?
  • In India, of course, the Registrar General comes out with a population projection based on the Census.
  • The last such projection was released in 2019 and it was based on Census 2011.
  • The Census projection is slightly lower than the UN projection.
  • Still UN projection is widely acknowledged across the world

What is the significance of India overtaking China?

  • That India would overtake China has been known for a while.
  • Moreover, in the past, when the world population was still at 5-billion or 6-billion levels, there was a concern about overcrowding.
  • Those concerns no longer exist because the global population is already 8 billion and several countries (including India) have achieved a replacement rate of fertility.
  • The concern now is not about the absolute numbers — India’s population is already 1.4 billion and may go up to 1.6 billion before declining.

-Source: Indian Express

December 2023