EDITORIAL ANALYSIS: Moving politics away from population control

Source: The Hindu

  • Preliminaries: Current events of national significance (different social service plans, NFHS, population control)
  • GS Paper I & II course: Social empowerment, development and management of health-related social sectors/services.


  • The The United Nations World Population Prospects (WPP), 2022, projects that India will become the most populous country by 2023, overtaking China, with a population of 140 crores.
  • This is four times the population of India at the time of independence in 1947 (34 crore). Now in the third stage of the demographic transitionand experiencing a slowing rate of growth due to persistently low mortality and rapidly declining fertility, India has 17.5% of the world’s population.
  • According to latest WPP, India will reach 150 crore by 2030 and 166 crore by 2050.
  • In the 1960 India had a population growth rate of over 2%.
    • At the current growth rate, this figure is expected to fall to 1% by 2025.
  • However, there is still a long way to go for the country to achieve population stability. This should be realized no later than 2064 and should be 170 crore (as mentioned in WPP 2022).


The context

Main highlights of the report:

  • China and India most populous countries: According World Population Prospects 2019, China with 1.44 billion people and India with 1.39 billion are the two most populous countries in the world, accounting for 19% and 18% of the world’s population respectively.
  • India conquering China: However, approximately By 2023, India’s population will overtake China to become the most populous country, with China’s population expected to decline by 31.4 million, or about 2.2%, between 2019 and 2050.
  • Population to reach eight billion: UN forecasts also indicate that the world’s population will reach eight billion.
  • Net decline in birth rates: While a sharp decline in birth rates is seen in several developing countries, more than half of the projected increase in world population over the next few decades will be concentrated in eight countries, according to the report.
    • Eight countries are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines and Tanzania.
  • Challenge to the SDGs: Many should double their population between 2022 and 2050putting additional pressure on resources and posing challenges to the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Growth of the elderly population: The elderly population is increasing both in number and as a percentage of the total.
  • Sustained decline in fertility: A sustained decline in fertility has led to a increased concentration of the working-age population (between 25 and 64), creating an opportunity to accelerate per capita economic growth.
  • Migration: International migration has a significant impact on demographic trends in some countries.
    • In the coming decades, migration will be the sole driver of population growth in high-income countries.
  • Covid19: The Covid-19 pandemic has had significant demographic consequences affecting all components of population change, including mortality, fertility and migration.
    • Global life expectancy fell by 1.8 years between 2019 and 2021 due to excess mortality linked to the pandemic.
    • The impact of the pandemic on fertility is less clear.

Population status in India:

  • Achieve a demographic milestone: Last year, India reached a significant level marking a demographic turning point since, for the first time, its synthetic fertility index (ISF) slipped to two, below the level of fertility replacement (2.1 children per woman), according to the National Health Survey family.
  • Demographic dynamics: However, even after reaching the replacement level of fertility, the population will continue to grow for three to four decades due to demographic dynamics (large cohorts of women of reproductive age).
    • After independence in the 1950s, India had a TFR of six.
  • Most states have reached the fertility rate of two: Several states have reached a TFR of two except for Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Manipur and Meghalaya.
  • Bottleneck issues: All these states face bottlenecks to achieve low TFR. These include:
    • High levels of illiteracy
    • Creeping child marriage
    • High levels of under-five mortality rates
    • Low participation of women in the labor market
    • Low use of contraceptives compared to other states.
  • Role in the economic decision: A majority of women in these states do not really have a say economically or decisively in their lives.
    • Without improving the status of women in society (quality of life), only unbalanced development is achievable .

Demographic dividend:

  • According United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), demographic divided means:
    • The potential for economic growth that can result from changes in the age structure of a population, primarily when the share of the working-age population (15-64) is greater than the share of the non-working-age population (14 and younger) , and 65 years and over).
  • Growth of working-age population: Over the past seven decades, the The share of the working-age population has increased from 50% to 65%, resulting in a remarkable drop in the dependency ratio (number of children and elderly people per working-age population).
  • 2022 WPP report: As in the WPP 2022, India will have one of the largest workforces in the world, i.e. over the next 25 years, one in five people of working age will live in India.
    • This working-age bulge will continue to grow until the mid-2050s, and India must take advantage of it.

How can India harness the demographic dividend?

  • Increased fiscal space: Tax resources can be diverted from expenditure children to invest in modern physical and human infrastructure that will increase India’s economic sustainability.
  • Workforce increase: With over 65% of the working-age population, India has the potential to become an economic superpower, supplying more than half of Asia’s potential labor force over the next few decades.
  • Active population : Increase in the labor force which improves the productivity of the economy.
  • Female workforce: Increase in the female labor force which naturally accompanies a drop in fertility, and which can be a new source of growth.

Barriers to harnessing this demographic dividend:

  • Absence of women in the workforce: India’s labor force is limited by the absence of women in the labor market
    • only a quarter of women are employed.
  • Teaching quality: The quality of learning outcomes is not there
  • Lack of skills: The country’s workforce is severely lacking in the basic skills required for the modernized labor market.
    • Having the largest population with one of the lowest employment rates in the world.
  • Male-dominated sex ratio: Another demographic concern of independent India is the male-dominated sex ratio.
    • In 1951, the country had a sex ratio of 946 women per 1,000 men.
    • In 2011, the sex ratio was 943 women for 1,000 men; by 2022, there are expected to be approximately 950 women for every 1,000 men.
  • Global Hunger Index: India ranks 101st out of 116 nations in the World Hunger Index.
    • This is quite daunting for a country that has one of the most extensive social protection programs for food security through the public distribution system and the midday meal system.

Serious health risks:

  • Increase in NCDs: The disease pattern in the country has also seen a huge change in those 75 years.
    • As India struggled with communicable diseases after independence, there was a transition to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the cause of more than 62% of all deaths.
  • World leader in NCDs: India is a global leader in the burden of disease as the share of non-communicable diseases has almost doubled since the 1990s, which is the major cause for concern.
    • India is home to over eight million people with diabetes. Furthermore, more than a quarter of global deaths from air pollution occur in India alone.
  • Increase in the aging population: With an increasingly aging population plagued by increases in non-communicable diseases, India faces a serious health risk in the coming decades.
  • Inadequate health infrastructure: In contrast, India’s healthcare infrastructure is highly inadequate and inefficient.
  • Low health expenditure: Moreover, public health funding in India is low, varying between 1% and 1.5% of GDP, which is among the lowest percentages in the world.

India’s Population Issues:

Go forward

  • Anticipated investments in development: India is referred to as a young nation, with 50% of its population under the age of 25.
    • But India’s share of elderly population is growing and is expected to reach 12% by 2050.
    • After 2050, the elderly population will increase sharply.
    • So, Advancing investments in developing a strong social, financial and health care support system for older adults is the need of the hour.
  • Significant investment in human capital: Action should focus on strong investment in human capital, older people living in dignity and healthy aging populations.
  • Quality education and health: We must prepare with suitable infrastructure, favorable social protection schemes and massive investments in quality education and health.
  • Improving the quality of life should be the priority: Emphasis should not be on population control; we don’t have such a serious problem now. Instead, an increase in quality of life should be the priority.
  • Capacity Building: Building the capacity of health workers, addressing intersectionality, involving men in the family planning discourse, and developing innovative solutions through effective public and private partnerships can greatly improve access to family planning services and health overall of our younger population.
  • Meet health requirements: More funding for health as well as better health facilities from available funds must be secured and reproductive health services must be made accessible through a rights-based approach.
  • Federal approach for various states: A new federal approach to governance reforms for the demographic dividend will need to be put in place to the coordination of policies between States on various emerging demographic problems such as migration, ageing, qualification, participation of women in the labor market and urbanization.


  1. Despite a consistent experience of high growth, India continues to have the lowest human development indicators. Examine the issues that make balanced and inclusive development elusive. (UPSC 2021)

(200 WORDS, 10 POINTS)