As the world celebrates World Population Day, India reflects on its population woes. The second most populous country in the world is set to surpass China as the most populous country by 2024 and according to estimates, the drop in India’s population will only come around 2050. Although India can boast of the world’s largest young workforce and the economic growth potential therein, the problems are huge and daunting.
According to the latest data of April 2015 from World Bank, India’s population stands at 1.31 billion. It is only behind China which has a population of 1.37 billion according to the same data. The last official census was done in 2011 and the subsequent largest estimates done for Aadhaar enrollment in 2015 that put the population at 1.28 billion.
The World Population Day was started in 1989 by the then governing council of the United Nations Development Programme after the global population had outgrown the five billion mark on July 11, 1987. The countries resolved to observe the day in order to spread awareness about the rise in population, family planning, woes of overpopulation and empowerment of people in developing nations through population control.
India is in dire need for this to take effect.
Where does India’s population stand
India is the second most populous country in the world. According to MedIndia and Census 2011 data, around 50 births take place each minute in India. 17.85 per cent of the people in the world are Indians. UN and World Bank estimate that by 2050, India’s estimated population will be in excess of 1.6 billion. According to the National Family Health Survey 2017 (NFHS-4), India is expected to reach replacement level fertility (RLL) of 2.1 by 2020. RLL is the size of the population that replaces a generation to a next generation in order to sustain the population level. The survey data shows that there has been a drop in the average number of children in each family from 2.7 to 2.2 in the last decade. This seems to be one bright spot.
Around 365 million people in India are in the age bracket of 10-24 years. The NFHS expects this group to be the main driver of the population in coming decades.
The biggest concerns due to fast population growth comes in the matters of employment, education, healthcare and nutrition. There is already a dearth of employment in the country and though the government is implementing several programs to address the issue, it is undeniable that the employment will need to grow faster. The latest unemployment survey carried out by the Ministry of Labour and Employment in 2015-16 showed an unemployment rate of 4% in males and 8.7% in females. While a larger number of people could be without work, the unemployed population is considered as the one which is actively looking for work but is not able to find employment.
According to estimations based on a 30-day moving average of the all India unemployment rate, the BSE put the average employment rate on June 30, 2017 at 3.8%. It showed unemployment in rural India at 3.47% and 4.47% in urban India.
According to a KPMG report, India meets the global average in number of physicians. The concern, the report points out, is that 74 per cent of the doctors only tend to around one third of the urban population or no more than 442 million people.
India is short of specialist medical practitioners by 81 per cent in rural community health centres and the private sector has 63 per cent of the hospital beds in the country, according to Indiaspend.com and health and family welfare department data.
The government this year acknowledged the challenges posed in the economic and social spectrum. For that end, the National Health Policy 2017 was formed to chart a course for sustainable development, to ensure employment growth and population are brought on a same level.
India figures in the list of countries with the lowest per capita expenditure on healthcare. Around 65 per cent of healthcare costs are borne by the savings by citizens. Also, Government of India contributes 32 per cent to the public insurance while the same figure is 83.5 per cent in the UK. The huge size of the population limits the per capita contribution and hence the large out of pocket expense also reflect a concern that 76 per cent of Indians do not have health insurance. Without adequate number of quality government hospitals, it is imperative for citizens to access healthcare at private institutions but the population is one of the factors impeding the same.
The massive population also has the largest young workforce in the world. Around half of the Indian population is below 25 years of age and around 65 per cent is under the age of 35. Also, by 2020, the average age for an Indian citizen will be 29 years. This will be much better that China and Japan which will have average age for 37 years and 48 years, respectively.