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Diverse Demographic Paths of India and China

Different Demographic Paths of India

  • The Critical Juncture: The 2022 and 2023 will see two landmark demographic events in China and India.
    • In 2022, China will for the first time register an absolute decline in its population.
    • And in 2023, India’s population, projected by the United Nations to reach 1,428.63 million, will surpass China’s 1,425.67 million.

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Different Demographic Paths Factors

Two Primary drivers behind these demographic shifts:


  • Reduction in mortality normally leads to a rising population.
  • Mortality falls with increased education levels, public health and vaccination programmes, access to food and medical care, and provision of safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.
  • The crude death rate (CDR): The number of persons dying per year per 1,000 population.
    • The CDR was 2 for China and 22.2 for India in 1950.
    • It fell to single digits for China first in 1974 (to 9.5) and for India in 1994 (9.8), and further to 3-7.4 for both in 2020.
  • The life expectancy at birth: Defined as how long, on average, a newborn can expect to live, if current death rates do not change.
  • Between 1950 and 2020, it went up from 43.7 to 78.1 years for China and from 7 to 70.1 years for India.


  • A drop in fertility, on the other hand, slows down population growth, ultimately resulting in absolute declines.
  • The total fertility rate (TFR): The number of babies an average woman bears over her lifetime. A TFR of 2.1 is considered as “replacement-level fertility”.
    • TFR lower than 2.1 indicates that a generation is not producing enough children to replace itself, eventually leading to an outright reduction in population.
    • TFR was as high as 8 for China and 5.7 for India in 1950.
    • China’s TFR, according to its 2020 Census, was 1.3 births per woman.
    • As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5, India’s TFR has declined from 2.2 in 2015-16 to 2.0 in 2019-21.
Diverse Demographic Paths of India
Diverse Demographic Paths of India

Different Demographic Paths Shifts of India and China Implications

  • Crisis for China – Declining working age population:
    • The proportion of the population aged between 20 and 59 years crossed 50% in 1987 and peaked at 61.5% in 2011. This period also coincided with high economic growth, with China successfully harnessing the “demographic dividend” that comes from a young labour force.
    • But, China’s working-age population is projected to fall below 50% by 2045. Moreover, the average (median) age of the population, which was 28.9 years in 2000 and 37.4 years in 2020, is expected to soar to 7 years by 2050.
    • In short, China faces the prospect of a dwindling labour force having to support a rapidly aging population.
  • Opportunity for India – Demographic Dividend:
    • For India, the share of working age population in the overall population crossed 50% only in 2007, and will peak at 57% towards the mid-2030s.
    • The median age of India’s population also will not go up much — from 27.3 years in 2020 to 1 in 2050 — adding up to a less depressing prospect than China’s.
    • Overall then, India has a window of opportunity well into the 2040s for reaping its “demographic dividend”, like China did from the late 1980s until up to 2015.

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