Jul 11, 2022 - World

India will surpass China in population next year, UN projects

World's most populous countries, ranked
Data: United Nations; Chart: Nicki Camberg/Axios

India is expected to surpass China as the world's most populous country by 2023, according to a new report from the United Nations looking at population trends.

Why it matters: India, despite democratic backsliding in recent years, is the world's largest democracy and viewed by the West as a key counterweight to China's influence in the region, per Axios' Zachary Basu.

  • U.S. administrations have prioritized strengthening economic and strategic ties with India as U.S.-China competition has accelerated and become a defining dynamic of the 21st century.

Driving the news: The world's population will reach 8 billion by Nov. 15, and 9.7 billion in 2050, but the global population is growing at its slowest pace since 1950 due to decreasing fertility rates in many countries. Increasing rates of emigration are also slowing growth in certain parts of the globe.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic also had an impact on overall population growth, bringing global life expectancy from 72.9 in 2019 to 71 in 2021 (but improvements in medication and health could bring life expectancy to 77.2 years in 2050), according to the report.

What they're saying: The 8 billion milestone is a "reminder of our shared responsibility to care for our planet and a moment to reflect on where we still fall short of our commitments to one another," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement coinciding with the report's release.

  • "In the world we strive to build, 8 billion people means 8 billion opportunities to live dignified and fulfilled lives.”

There will be massive shifts in where and how countries' populations grow or decline, the report found.

  • Most of the population growth projected up to 2050 will be concentrated in eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania.
  • Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia and Ukraine will see the largest relative reductions in population size over the same time period, with losses of 20% or more.
  • The populations of 61 countries are expected to drop by 1% due to low levels of fertility. Around two-thirds of the global population lives where fertility is below 2.1 births per woman, which is around the level required for zero growth for a population with low mortality rates.
  • Migration will be the sole driver of population growth in high-income countries while birth rates will be the primary driver in low and middle-income countries.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show only decreasing fertility rates have led to the slower pace of population growth, not decreasing fertility rates and increasing rates of emigration.

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