More Indians living in cities, a persistently skewed sex ratio and a population that will swell to 1.65 billion in 2060 before starting to drop. These are the conclusions of a new report by the United Nations that was released this week. It added that the world population will rise from 7.7 billion people to 10.9 billion by 2100.

To arrive at their projections, the authors of the World Population Prospects report studied population censuses and nationally representative sample surveys from 1950 to 2018.

According to the report, India will surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2027, despite declining fertility rates. This is because there is an already large population of children and youth in India who will reach reproductive age in the coming decades.

The projections from the report reflect a range of possible outcomes, although in the charts below, it is the median outcome that has been plotted.

India’s population will peak in 2060

Because India’s population is largely young right now, it will continue to grow, despite the rate of growth slowing. The projections for the next 80 years show that India’s population will hit a peak of 1.65 billion in 2060 before finally declining.

Demographic dividend (or burden) not going away

For years, Indians have been told that the country will benefit from a demographic dividend: a period of potential economic growth that will result from the majority of a population being of working age. This dividend would be the result of people between the ages of 15 and 64 participating in the labour force in large numbers,
with relatively few younger and older people to care for.

The data suggests India’s working-age population will continue to consist of 65% of the total population between now and 2063, after which the number of elderly citizens will increase. Of course, the “dividend” is only a potential one. The country also has to be prepared to train and employ this mass of people. It has about five decades to do so, before they age out of the working population.

More men than women

All the way up to 2100, India will have more men than women. The only exception to this category is the population over 65, since women tend to be longer-lived than men and the report sees that trend continuing.

What is worrisome is that fewer women will continue to be born than men, according to the projections of the sex ratio data in the report.

The census of 2011 pegged India’s sex ratio at 943 women per 1,000 men. The United Nations data paints a more dismal picture, pegging the current sex ratio at 924 women per 1000 men. The sex ratio is improving, but we won’t see equality, even in 2100.

From largely rural to largely urban

India is moving to its cities. Where once India was thought to live in its villages, before 2050 a majority of people will be living in urban areas – which also means an ever-increasing burden upon India’s creaking city infrastructure.

Since the population is also growing alongside this rural-to-urban migration, the overall costs will be even higher. Reports of groundwater drying up and the increasing levels of pollution in cities all paint a grim picture of how difficult life might become.

Also read:

One step forward, two back – India’s uneven progress in correcting gender imbalance

The Modi Years: How close is India to getting 100 Smart Cities?