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India becomes world’s most populous country with 1.4 billion people

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Crowds in India (Credit: Shashank Hudkar)

India’s population has grown to more than 1.4 billion people, overtaking China to become the world’s most populous country, according to UN figures. Both countries now account for more than a third of the global population.

According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the population of India was estimated to have reached 1,425,775,850 people by Sunday night, matching and then surpassing the population of mainland China.

By mid-year, India’s population is expected to reach 1.4286 billion, compared to China’s 1.4257 billion.

“China’s population reached its peak size of 1.426 billion in 2022 and has started to fall,” the UN said earlier this month. “Projections indicate that the size of the Chinese population could drop below 1 billion before the end of the century. By contrast, India’s population is expected to continue growing for several decades.”

India and China now account for more than a third of the world’s population, which reached 8 billion in November and reaches 8.045 billion by mid-year. This is up from 7 billion in 2011, 6 billion in 1999, 5 billion in 1987, and 1 billion in 1804.

China and India had nearly identical levels of total fertility in the early 1970s, with women having just under six children on average. Now, those numbers have dropped to just 1.2 in China and 2.0 in India – both below the so-called replacement threshold of 2.1.

Both China and India implemented policies to curb rapid population growth at the end of the 20th century. Some of those were controversial, particularly in China, where the government implemented a one-child policy from 1980 to 2016.

In January, the Chinese government reported that its population had fallen for the first time in 60 years, with deaths outnumbering births in 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic – which led to strict control measures – likely contributed to those results.

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