India overtakes China to become the most populous country in the world, with 2.9 million more people than China, according to the latest data from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) released on Wednesday.
The demographic data from the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) ‘State of World Population Report, 2023’ titled ‘8 Billion Lives, Infinite Possibilities: The Case for Rights and Choices’, estimates India’s population at 1,428.6 million or 1.4286 billion against 1.4257 billion for China.
The United States is a distant third, with an estimated population of 340 million, the data showed. The data reflects information available as of February 2023, the report said.
It is the first time that India’s population has overtaken China’s since 1950 when the UN began to collect and release population data.
The corresponding figures for China are 17%, 12%, 18%, 69%, and 14%, which means the country has nearly 200 million above the age of 65.
China is doing better than India in the context of life expectancy, which for women is 82 and for men is 76. The figures for India are 74 and 71, according to the report.
Experts say India now has a demographic advantage. “Its young population in a consumer-driven economy will be a major factor in driving the country’s development, and presents an enormous opportunity for the country’s economic growth,” said Andrea Wojner, UNFPA’s India representative.
India’s demographic diversity among states also provides unique opportunities to reap the benefits of demographic dividends. Different states are at various stages of demographic transition.
Although India and China will account for more than one-third of the estimated global population of 8.045 billion, the population growth in both Asian giants has been slowing, although at a much faster pace in China than in India.
India’s annual population growth has averaged 1.2% since 2011, compared with 1.7% in the 10 years previously, according to government data.
China’s population decreased by 850,000 people in 2022, the first such decline since 1961.
Overall, the UNFPA report called for a “radical rethink” of how population numbers are framed. It urged politicians and media to abandon overblown narratives about population booms and busts.