India becoming world’s most populous country may strengthen its claim for permanent UNSC membership: U.N. official

According to a U.N. report released on Monday, India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country by 2023

July 12, 2022 11:47 am | Updated 11:47 am IST - United Nations

File photo for representation.

File photo for representation. | Photo Credit: Ravindran R

India’s claim for permanent membership in the U.N. Security Council may get strengthened if it surpasses China and becomes the world’s most populous nation in 2023, according to a top U.N. population official.

The World Population Prospects 2022 report released on Monday said that India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country next year. According to the report, India’s population stands at 1.412 billion in 2022, compared to China’s 1.426 billion.

India, which will surpass China as the world’s most populous nation by 2023, is projected to have a population of 1.668 billion in 2050, way ahead of China’s 1.317 billion people by the middle of the century.

The report, compiled by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, notes that the global population is projected to reach 8 billion on November 15, 2022. The global population is growing at its slowest rate since 1950, having fallen under one per cent in 2020.

The latest projections by the United Nations suggest that the world’s population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050. It is projected to reach a peak of around 10.4 billion people during the 2080s and to remain at that level until 2100.

Director of the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) John Wilmoth said on Monday that India’s emergence as the country with the largest population could lead to “certain claims on things”.

“What is the significance of being the largest population in the world? I think you have certain claims on things. I wonder what will happen in terms of the discussion around…roles at the U.N. and the roles of the permanent five members of the Security Council.

“If India becomes the largest country, they may think that that gives them a claim that they should be part of …they’ve been claiming that they should be part of that group (permanent member of the Security Council) anyway. But, you know, it may strengthen their claim,” Mr. Wilmoth said while responding to a question on the impact of India surpassing China during a press conference at the launch of the report.

India has been at the forefront of the years-long efforts to reform the Security Council saying it rightly deserves a place as a permanent member of the Council, which in its current form does not represent the geo-political realities of the 21st Century.

Mr. Wilmoth said that in terms of development implications, it is significant to note that China's reduction of population size happened in a more drastic way.

The country “implemented policies in the 1970s and 80s that were very effective in reducing the fertility level and that led to very sharp changes in population, it slowed the growth very rapidly.

It also inverted the age distribution and now they are concerned in China about the top heavy - the nature of the age distribution. More and more older people relative to the rest of the population, the U.N. official said.

“India had a much smoother transition that brought the fertility rate down more slowly. That means there aren't the same kind of discontinuities in the historical patterns and there hasn't been the same very rapid aging of the population, although aging will come there as well.

“But it will be a more gradual process. And in some ways that may be better to manage, a better circumstance, in the long run for the economy to have that kind of more gradual demographic change than the very rapid change that's happened in China,” Mr. Wilmoth said.

Patrick Gerland, the Chief, Population Estimates and Projection Section, Population Division, said China was able to conduct its census in 2020 and India was planning to do its census in 2021 but it got postponed because of the pandemic.

“So once India is able to do their next census, and the new information will become available, we will be able to take advantage of this information to reassess,” Mr. Gerland said.

The report said that the world’s two most populous regions in 2022 were Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, with 2.3 billion people, representing 29% of the global population, and Central and Southern Asia, with 2.1 billion, representing 26% of the total world population.

China and India accounted for the largest populations in these regions, with more than 1.4 billion each in 2022.

More than half of the projected increase in global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in just eight countries of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania.

"Disparate population growth rates among the world’s largest countries will change their ranking by size: for example, India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2023,” the report said.

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