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6/25/2014 Indias population in 2050: extreme projections demand extreme actions | East Asia Forum 1/8
Indias population in 2050: extreme projections demand extreme
5 April 2013
Author: Ranjit Goswami, IMT, Nagpur
In 2050 Indias population is projected to be 1.69 billion Chinas will be 1.31 billion.
India has experienced extraordinary population growth: between 2001 and 2011 India added 181
million people to the world, slightly less than the entire population of Brazil. But 76 per cent of
Indias population lives on less than US$2 per day (at purchasing power parity rates). India ranks
at the bottom of the pyramid in per capita-level consumption indicators not only in energy or
electricity but in almost all other relevant per capita-level consumption indicators, despite high
rates of growth in the last decade.
Much of Indias population increase has occurred among the poorest socio-economic percentile.
Relatively socio-economically advanced Indian states had a fertility rate of less than 2.1 in 2009
less than the level needed to maintain a stable population following infant mortality standards in
developed nations. But in poorer states like Bihar, fertility rates were nearer to 4.0.
Does this growth mean India can rely on the demographic dividend to spur development? This
phenomenon, which refers to the period in which a large proportion of a countrys population is of
working age, is said to have accounted for between one-fourth and two-fifths of East Asias
economic miracle as observed late last century.
But India is not East Asia. Its population density is almost three times the average in East Asia
and more than eight times the world average of 45 people per square kilometre. If India has
anywhere near 1.69 billion people in 2050, it will have more than 500 people per square kilometre.
Besides, in terms of infrastructure development India currently is nowhere near where East Asian
nations were before their boom. In terms of soft to hard infrastructure, spanning education,
healthcare, roads, electricity, housing, employment growth and more, India is visibly strained.
For example, India has an installed energy capacity of little more than 200 gigawatts; China has
more than 1000 gigawatts and aims to generate 600 gigawatts of clean electricity by 2020. To
make matters worse, many of the newly installed power stations in India face an acute shortage
of coal, and future supply is not guaranteed. China mines close to four billion tonnes of coal per
year, which has a negative effect on both local and global air quality. At some stage, it isprobably
inevitable that India will need much greater capacity than its present rate of mining 600 million
tonnes of coal per year, which is also causing local and global pollution levels to rise parts of
India face air quality problems similar to those in China. On oil, India imports close to 80 per cent
6/25/2014 Indias population in 2050: extreme projections demand extreme actions | East Asia Forum 2/8
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Population prospects in
East and Southeast
Asia byZhongwei Zhao
Population in the Asian
Century byPeter McDonald
of its crude oil requirements, while it also runs an unsustainable current account deficit of more
than 5 per cent of its GDP, and reserves for new energy sources like shale gas do not look
promising either.
Indias food supply is in an even worse position. As a member of Indias Planning Commission put
it, we have a problem and it can be starkly put in the following way: around 20042005, our per
capita food grains production was back to the 1970s level. In 200507, the average Indian
consumed only 2,300 calories per day below the defined poverty line in rural areas of 2,400
calories a day. The trend in recent years is for Indians to eat even less.
So, for India, treating lightly Malthusian predictions about food supply until 2050 or beyond may
not be prudent. Worldwide food prices have been on the rise to unforeseen levels, and India too
has been suffering from high food inflation.
Finally, even if India manages to feed its burgeoning population, its growth may not
be ecologically sustainable. The global demand for water in 2050 is projected to be more than 50
per cent of what it was in 2000, and demand for food will double. On average, a thousand tons of
water is required to produce one ton of food grains. Its not surprising, then, that international
disputes about water have increasingly been replicated among states in India, where the Supreme
Court is frequently asked to intervene.
So have the policy responses been proportional to the gravity of the demographic, ecological and
developmental problems facing India?
The probable answer is that policy makers have failed miserably on all measurable counts. If one
compares India to China this becomes clear. While Chinas one-child policy has been criticised as
against human dignity and rights and there is no denying that such measures should be avoided
as far as possible the history of human civilization teaches us that extreme situations call for
extreme actions. There will be ample time for multiple schools to have their post-mortems on the
success and failure of the one-child policy, but it has helped China to control its population by a
possible 400 million people.
The US Census Bureau estimated in 2010 that China will hit its peak population of 1.4 billion in
around 2026. Chinas fertility rate has been lower than the replacement rate for more than two
decades now. That means the one-child policy will have taken nearly 40 years to stabilise or
reverse Chinas population trend. How long will India take to get to that stage?
There is a distinct possibility of irreversible and unsustainable population growth and big question
marks remain over how India will provide nearly 1.7 billion people with their basic minimum
demands. In this environment to raise an alarm that turns out to be false is better than relying on
comfortable slogans like the demographic dividend. The longer India delays acknowledging the
severity of these problems and dealing with them head on, the graver the consequences are likely
to be.
Ranjit Goswami is Dean (Academics) at the Institute of Management Technology, Nagpur.

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Post a comment
Lex Rieffel
18th April, 2013, 7:35 pm
Mr. Goswamis message is one that deserves to be highlighted. As an observer of the Indian
scene for almost 50 years (beginning when its population was around 400 million), population
growth must be the countrys paramount existential challenge. Moreover, it seems that there
are only two options for stabilizing the population in the near term: an Indian version of the
one-child policy or mass deaths due to starvation, disease, or conflict.
4th May, 2013, 1:42 pm
The 1 child policy will result in a large dependant senior population like that of Europe and
China. Graying nations are never good: encouraging immigration is the way to go.
12th May, 2013, 3:56 am
Thats a weird suggestion! Immigration isnt at the whim and fancy of India.
Chinas 1-child policy, despite the issues of human rights it raises, has been
beneficial. And European countries have a good lifestyle, despite their being in
economic depression for a while.Its a crisis situation in India, that needs a solution.
The current government is frustratingly unable to grapple with the issue.
17th August, 2013, 12:52 am
So you want the poorest people in that country to pack up an move their entire
family to another country? With no education and no money, theyll just be poor
somewhere else, but maybe theres a chance they wont starve to death. So
6/25/2014 Indias population in 2050: extreme projections demand extreme actions | East Asia Forum 4/8
okay I see your point a little.
Zhonghong Zheng
29th October, 2013, 1:02 am
Indias version of one-child policy would be greatly preferred
23rd April, 2013, 4:35 pm
Well the developed world , especially the West , has to refuse immigration from India until
they do something about excessive population growth .
This is the only thing that will make the Indian government react , and Indians understand
that they cannot go on in the way they are , often just for the sake of religion.
The worlds resources are finite , and the pollution produced by countries like India is
unacceptable today . Also the fact that the pollution from their rivers goes into the Indian
Ocean and effects many countries in the world has to stop .
Dr Ashutosh Das
1st May, 2013, 5:30 pm
India is a peculiar democratic country. There is no uniform rule here for the whole citizen.
No. of marriages certainly be one of the indicators for population growth. But the number
of marriages permitted officially is different for different communities. Single marriage
system is a rule for one community but other communities are permitted many marriages
for the sake of religion. How it can be solved? So, There is a big question mark regarding
population control here.
14th November, 2013, 6:39 pm
Dr. Ashutosh Das, how do you explain the population explosion in Bihar, which has a
very small Muslim population? While Muslims(your other communities) are permitted
four wives for religious reasons, the reality is that they mostly have single spouses. If
every Muslim adult male married four women, where do the women come from, given
that the male:female ratio among Muslims is roughly 1.2:1? Population growth among
Hindu communities in UP, Bihar, MP, etc., are at par with Muslims in the same areas,
so how would you explain that?
Population growth in India is a result of poverty, functional illiteracy(not the Indian
standard of knowing how to write your name) and ignorance spurred on by religious
propaganda from both Muslim and Hindu activist groups. Indian Christians and other
minorities are falling below replacement birth rates, and Hindus in the south are not
far behind. The main problem appears to be with Hindus and Muslims in the north,
which is where religious fervor is highest.
Furthermore, your one community includes Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Jains,
6/25/2014 Indias population in 2050: extreme projections demand extreme actions | East Asia Forum 5/8
Parsis, Jews and tribals. You need to take off your religion blinders, which are a huge
part of the problems of India today.
12th October, 2013, 12:37 pm
How can you link immigration with Indian government? Legal immigration happens because
host countries need skilled people or on humanitarian grounds. Your comments about
linking the two do not make sense.
8th May, 2013, 12:08 pm
This article seems to be inaccurate. If recent trends are taken into consideration.Indias
population should stabilize by 2035-2040 as the TFR will fall below 2.1 replacement level well
before then. It is 2.5 right now. Also Indias population right now is 1.22 billion. Its unlikely
that it will increase by 470 million in just 37 years especially as TFR and population growth
rates decline. Also how can Chinas population be only 1.31 billion considering it is already
1.35 billion?
Ranjit Goswami
8th May, 2013, 7:19 pm
The source of the data for projected population in 2050 is taken from one of the most
reliable organizations related to the area: Population Reference Bureau from its 2011
study. As per Population Reference Bureau, in 2050, likely population of India would be
1.692 billion and China 1.31 billion. The website, if it can be added here,
Ranjit Goswami
8th May, 2013, 7:29 pm
Moreover, TFR falling below 2.1 does not immediately ensure a stabilizing or decreasing
population, as China has been having less than 2.1 TFR for more than two decades now.
Chinas population growth has slowed down, but it has not yet stabilized or started
declining in absolute terms. It depends on reproductive age group demography, which
tends to be/will be extremely high in India until 2050 or even beyond. Moreover, what is
not noted in the article, but is of interest, is that population of the under 15 years age-
group in India is 410 million against 223 million in China against that of 199 million in entire
developed world. This can help one understand the basis of the 2050 population
6/25/2014 Indias population in 2050: extreme projections demand extreme actions | East Asia Forum 6/8
12th October, 2013, 12:39 pm
The trends can change quickly as more and more people become modern and
addicted to modern gadgets they will have smaller families. inflation will play a big
role too ..I think in worst case scenario the population will stabilize in 2050
8th June, 2013, 6:50 am
One possibility is to bring in borders. Yes lets amend the constitution. Why should other
Indian states suffer because UP,Bihar, Rajasthan, MP and the like have poor leadership. The
priority of these of these states should be the education of girls, getting women into the
workforce, labour reform(manufacturing/labour intensive jobs needed), and urbanization. Of
course the same goes for all states, but these states should be doubling their efforts.
18th June, 2013, 10:58 pm
Surprisingly there are no efforts from government to overcome this problem of
overpopulation. In decades of 80s, 90s we used to see campaigns on TV, wall paintings etc.
to educate people. Any idea why that is not happening now?
14th July, 2013, 12:29 pm
Yes, I have wondered about the same too. Maybe, the one child policy should not be
forced on people, but campaigns are absolutely legitimate and they work. I remember in
Shimla, there were writings on the wall asking people not to dirty the streets and the
streets were way cleaner than any other hill station I have seen. Probably someone
brainwashed the Indian government about this demographic dividend. But sadly our
politicians are not competent to make use of the demographic dividend.
Liam C.
29th August, 2013, 2:47 pm
A portion of Indias demographic dividend will be exported to the rest of the world as well, it
seems. Thats what the 21st century is like. Your problems are my problems, and my problems
are your problems too. But man oh man Indias population growth is a big f****** problem.
J S Mitra
11th September, 2013, 11:14 am
If the Govt is unable to achieve a near 1 child policy like China, in less than the next 15 years
we will witness a crisis of unthinkable bounds. There will be civil wars in many states.
Grabbing money, food, housing and land and any other assets by the have-nots from the
haves will flourish.
6/25/2014 Indias population in 2050: extreme projections demand extreme actions | East Asia Forum 7/8
Very harsh words but such is the plight of the hungry. Lawlessness has already commenced.
Jeet Singh
14th October, 2013, 10:13 am
The whole governing system is flawed and needs to be overhauled.
Zhonghong Zheng
20th October, 2013, 5:25 am
For one, this article needs to be read by more people
Saptarshi Ray
25th December, 2013, 4:52 am
I am not an expert on this subject, but I am wondering whether the widespread practice of
female fetocide will have any effect in Indias population growth. By logical conclusion,
although it may sound cruel to say but actually this may reduce Indias population growth. As
in many states a substantial number of male population will never marry so they will not be
able to reproduce. Of course such massive numbers of unmarried male population will also
make our society unstable, but thats another matter.
Vijay Agrawal
22nd January, 2014, 8:04 pm
It is the orthodox Malthusian discourse when we start a balance sheet of food supply and
mouths to feed. The consumption pattern across the world clearly tells where the threat to
food supply and natures resources comes from.
What is really required today is to redefine the orthodox concept of development seen as
mere economic growth. Everything, including the population problem, will fall in place if we
follow Amartya Sens capability theory of development or the human development approach
as place people at the center of development, in place of economics or GDP growth.
It is time to shed the myth of perpetual economic growth.
5th March, 2014, 3:39 pm
This article did not take climate change into account. With 1 degree of global climate
increase, there would be approx 15% reduction in grain output. It is expected that it will be 3
5 degrees global temparture rise by 2100 ( business as usual scenario by IPCC). Also, there
will here diction ground water and less water in rivers due to glaciers melting in the long run,
though there would be floods in short-term. Because of jet streem pattern change, indian
monsoon may change. With all these changes coming in this century, can India survive this
6/25/2014 Indias population in 2050: extreme projections demand extreme actions | East Asia Forum 8/8
21st April, 2014, 10:00 am
I think adopting one-child policy is NOT a great step in controlling population. What is very
important to be noticed is that 76% of the population lives in less than $2 per day, which
means couples are irresponsibly having children irrespective of the education, food and life
they can provide for them. I think making sure they are not abusing their human rights to
start a family (with any number of children) by asking for an explanation for such irresponsible
behavior would be important for a country like India. One-child policy will be very cruel to the
ones who have been responsible all through their life.
22nd April, 2014, 6:22 pm
So what will be the ultimate solution to these problems? I think India is not alone in
population problems. Many Southeast Asian countries are also struggling with how to resolve
the ever increasing population and poverty in their countries.
Tyrone Bree
14th May, 2014, 10:54 am
The trends sometimes hurts other country more. Even the policies in the country change as
time passes.