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Home / Opinion / Bane, not boon: Editorial on India becoming the most populous country in 2023

Bane, not boon: Editorial on India becoming the most populous country in 2023

The imminent size of the population is intimately connected to the power dynamics shaping the relationship between nations
Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy show that over 60 per cent of the employable workforce are not even looking for work, putting paid to India’s hope of reaping rewards from its demographic dividend.
Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy show that over 60 per cent of the employable workforce are not even looking for work, putting paid to India’s hope of reaping rewards from its demographic dividend.
Representational picture

The Editorial Board   |   Published 14.07.22, 03:03 AM

India is projected to surpass China as the most populous country in 2023 — four years earlier than expected — according to the latest report of the United Nations Population Division. The imminent size of the population is intimately connected to the power dynamics shaping the relationship between nations — for instance, the UN said that the rise in population will consolidate India’s claim to a permanent seat in the Security Council. It is, however, a double-edged sword. This is because there are several rising vulnerable constituencies in India’s population pie. India will have one of the largest workforces: globally, one in five working-age persons will live in India in the next 25 years. But what queers the pitch is the fact that India’s employment fell by a massive 13 million jobs in June 2022 compared to May. Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy show that over 60 per cent of the employable workforce are not even looking for work, putting paid to India’s hope of reaping rewards from its demographic dividend. The stress that a growing mass of unemployed, young people puts on the social fabric of the country must not be discounted. Moreover, the share of the elderly in the Indian population is expected to steadily rise till at least 2036, straining India’s beleaguered healthcare system. India is also one of the most vulnerable countries globally in terms of the population that will be affected by sea-level rise. 

The burgeoning population is not indicative of the country’s total fertility rate: India’s TFR has dropped below the so-called population replacement threshold for the first time and the National Family Health Survey data say the sharpest decline in TFR has been among Muslims. Yet, the political class’s response to deterrents continues to reek of prejudice and high-handedness. Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister has talked of the formulation of a policy to curb the “increase of one section” of the population. Be it forced sterilisation drives during the Emergency or the two-child norm to contest elections, the focus seldom has been on consent and awareness. Concentrating on districts with high TFR, improved access to education, higher incomes and employment and granting women — socially and legally — greater agency over their bodies and choice of conception could have a salubrious effect on India’s battle to tame the stud bull of population.



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