There are many reasons why India beat China. Although both countries have adopted official family planning programs, the political and socioeconomic situation is quite different. China’s form of government allowed one of the strictest population control programs to be implemented.
“China’s one-child population policy has reduced the total fertility rate. Over the years, China has reversed this policy, but it has contributed significantly to this demographic shift,” said Lekha S. Chakraborty, professor at the National Institute of Finance and Public Policy (NIPFP) in New Delhi.
In India, poverty, high infant mortality and low levels of education for women have historically been associated with high birth rates. India has the poorest population in the world.
Ashish Gupta, a demographer and researcher at Harvard University’s Center for Population and Development Studies, said, “Inequality in India, particularly social and gender inequality, has limited the reach of education and health and other social services. These factors have contributed to population growth.
To understand the impact of this milestone on India, it is important to examine the composition of its population. UN reports India’s population is growing, but at a slower rate.
“The rapid decline in fertility in India has occurred largely without mandatory population control measures. Currently, India has reached the replacement fertility level (two children per couple), but continues to add significant numbers due to population growth as a result of its young population,” explains Srinivas Kohli, professor of demographic studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University from New Delhi.
Like other developing countries, India faces challenges in ensuring a decent standard of living for its large population. Chakraborty warns that India’s demographic dividend — a younger population — will soon wither away. “An increase in the dependent population will lead to a decrease in labor market participation rates and an increase in the costs of public health and social care.”
For his part, Kohli emphasizes that the most important driver of fertility is education. “But many couples, especially women, do not have adequate access to family planning services, leading to more children than desired. Importantly, India’s fertility levels have declined significantly, and birth rates will continue to decline as couples receive the reproductive health services they need.”
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