India beats China in population war – Part II

India beats China in population war – Part II

Recent reports indicate that India has raced past China in terms of population growth. This second episode discusses a few significant pointers for the consequences.

A wide spectrum of demographic issues are intriguing experts, as India overtakes China to become the world’s most-populous nation. Based on the UN World Population data, analysts at Bloomberg came up with a few significant pointers for the consequences of China yielding its top position to India.These could be decidingfactors in redesigning the global geopolitical balance and the equilibrium between the two Asian powerhouses in the medium- to long-term.

  • Against the backdrop of apredominantly youthful India set to become the fastest-growing economy, an aging China is staring at a declining growth rateyears to come.
  • After strict attempts to thwart its birth rate, the working-age population in China will now shrink over the next century, with eventually more than 40% of its population aged 65 and above. During the same period, less than a third of India’s population will be in that age group by 2100.
Figure 1:How the two nations would age; Image credit: Bloomberg
  • However, 50% of India’s population is now under the age of 30. This means around 12 million of Indians become eligible job-seekers every year. This is a huge number, and the challenge is to sustain the pace of expansion and keep creating employment opportunities in the coming decades. Else, India might bow down under mindboggling unemployment figures.
  • An area where China scores is the participation of women in the workforce. 44.8% of the total labour force in China comprises women, while for India the ratio is just 20%. To put things in perspective, this is only slightly higher than Afghanistan!
Figure 2: Women in the workforce; Image credit: Bloomberg
  • China beats India hands down in the numbers for middle-class population. However, a reasonably skilled middle-class workforce as well asa relatively cheap labour market makes India an enticingalternative for manufacturers thinking of moving out of China. The ‘Make in India’ campaign is making ripples among manufacturers from US and Europe.
  • Demographic movement from rural to urban locations is a global phenomenon – and a constant event in developing nations – especially in Asia. Both India and China encounter this phenomenon as suburbs turn into cities and cities transform into metropolises and prospect-seekers migrate to greener pastures. However, this process is more rapid in China compared to India. Projections from UN-Habitat indicate that by 2035, the majority population of China will be city-dwellers. India, however, will remain predominantly rural. This is interesting, with multiple possibilities depending on the situation.

Ageing is inevitable

The Indian economy is passing through a phase of demographic dividend, in which the share of the working population is the highest. But with adeclining total fertility rate, the share of the elderly population has already on the rise, up from 8.2% in2011-12 to approximately 10.2% in 2018-19.Experts warn that thisis generally being pushed under the carpet. Back in 1947, India’s median age was 21, and just 5% were beyond the age of 60. Currently, the median age is above 28, and the 60-plus age group make up more than 10% of the population. While the decimation of working-age population is of direct concern, an indirect – but even more ominous – concern would be supporting an older population with limited governmental resources. The world has already seen how Japan became a nation of the old, and there is cause for worry indeed.


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