Apr 20, 2023

India to Surpass China as Most Populous Country on Earth Transcript

India to Surpass China as Most Populous Country on Earth Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsChinaIndia to Surpass China as Most Populous Country on Earth Transcript

India will eclipse China as the world’s most populous nation, with almost 3 million more people by the middle of this year. Read the transcript here.

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Eleni (00:00):

I want you to take a look at this number behind me, 1,428,600,000. This is India’s projected population by mid 2023. Almost 3 million more than what China is expected to be. And that means that in the coming months, India will overtake China as the most populous nation in the world according to the United Nations. But that explosion of people is driving competition for the most sought after jobs in India and many are struggling to keep up. Vedika Sud has more from New Delhi.

Vedika Sud (00:36):

In a village outside New Delhi, a doting mother attends to her little girl. Mahi is just two days old, her cries mark a symbolic moment. India is expected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country.

Mahi’s father, Vidpal Singh and mother Lakshmi are school dropouts. The family’s had little income and many children to feed. Singh, a farmer, started working with his father in their fields at a young age. He says he’ll do whatever it takes to help Mahi achieve her dreams.

Vidpal Singh (01:16):

[foreign language 00:01:18].

Vedika Sud (01:18):

“Even if I have to sell my fields to educate her, I will. One of the biggest challenges she’ll have to face is the country’s growing population. There’s stiff competition.” Singh tells me. India’s birth rate has slowed, but the country is still quickly adding to its 1.4 billion strong population. According to Unicef, more than 67,300 babies are born in India every day. That’s one sixth of the world’s birth counts daily. Already more than half of all Indians are under the age of 30 that means a huge potential to grow the national economy. But education and investment need to keep up. If there are going to be jobs for a new generation.

Kaushik Basu (02:02):

I really feel it’s a 10-year opportunity. Do it right and this is a dividend, do it wrong and this is going to be extremely worrying for the Indian economy and India’s youngsters.

Vedika Sud (02:14):

28 year old Sunil Kamar has a postgraduate degree but doesn’t hold a steady job. For years now, he’s been sweeping the floors of a school in his village in Haryana State. And doubling up as a tutor for young students. Despite his education, Kamar barely makes enough to support his ailing father and the rest of his family.

Sunil Kamar (02:35):

[inaudible 00:02:38].

Vedika Sud (02:38):

Sunil says it angers him that he doesn’t have a steady job despite his educational qualifications. Across India, the most highly sought after jobs are more competitive than ever before. Pursuing their dreams, tens of thousands of students from small towns moved to big cities to be coached for the coveted civil services exam. Some like Saran Agraval have been trying to crack the exam for four years now.

Saran Agraval (03:05):

[inaudible 00:03:08].

Vedika Sud (03:08):

Says his younger brother is sponsoring his education. “They could have bought three to four cars with the money they’ve spent on me.” He says. Over 1 million people sit for the entrance test each year, less than 1% make the cut.

Kaushik Basu (03:23):

The population is growing and the working age population is growing. If that category of people do not find enough employment, then what was meant to be an opportunity, the bulging, the demographic dividend so-called could become a huge challenge and problem for India.

Vedika Sud (03:43):

India’s new global title will mean little if it doesn’t come with fresh opportunity. Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.

Eleni (03:53):

Oh, those figures are from the UN states of the population report. Here are some of the headline numbers. The world’s population is now 8 billion strong. That’s largely a result of global life expectancy increasing to 72.8 years. That is nine years higher than 1990. But in Europe, population is expected to decline 7% between now and 2050. Those numbers raise important questions. Are there too many of us or is population decline an existential threats? Will our children contribute to climate change and how much will they suffer from it? Governments have grappled with these issues for generations, even implementing policies to try find the answers, but as the UN Population Fund Director, Natalia Kanem puts it, “Human reproduction is neither the problem nor the solution. When we put gender equality and the rights at the heart of our population policies, we are stronger, more resilient and better able to deal with the challenges resulting from rapidly changing populations.”

And Dr. Natalia Kanem joins me in now live from Brussels. Great to have you on the show. These numbers could be quite scary, but as you say, we’ve got to put gender equality at the heart of this. And the numbers, perhaps it paints another picture for me, sort of a fuller picture that around 24% of women and girls are unable to say no to sex, while 11% are unable to make decisions over contraception. And now I’m curious to what extent are the rising population numbers in certain geographies, because it’s not across the board, are correlated to the data around the rights of women?

Dr. Natalia Kanem (05:37):

Well, it’s such a great question, Eleni. I’m very happy to be here because we have to radically rethink the way that we look at population and population policy. Today, two-thirds of us live in places where population is already trending below replacement rate. And yes, for one-third of the globe, population continues to increase. But we’re at a time when there’s great geographic diversity. In some places, the average age of the population is 50 years old, whereas in other countries it’s 15. So when you have this kind of a situation of changing dynamics, you have to take things through the lens of the woman who is going to bear the child. Her decision about her fertility is an individual decision and the woman and the couple have the right to actually decide the number and spacing and timing of their children. So we want to refocus the question of population into, what are we doing to make that choice a reality? Because today it’s not a reality everywhere, not just in high fertility countries, but also in those that are facing population decline.

Eleni (06:55):

And really fascinating. Look, we’ve just spoken about India, we had a fantastic insight into what the experiences are with regards to young demographics, so much excitement about what that means. But there needs to be a convergence with population growth versus what we see on education, resources, job opportunities. Because if there isn’t a convergence, that is when you’re going to be dealing with perhaps an unstable future for the new generation.

Dr. Natalia Kanem (07:26):

Well, again, I think this is a very important moment to look at the dynamics and to put the facts first. The issue of young people’s education is relevant in every single country, not just countries with high fertility. But I’m sitting in Brussels today, Europe is worried about the fate of young people and the fact that relative to an aging population, the labor force is changing dramatically. So equipping every young person, and as the India segment showed, the girl child in particular to be able to succeed, she’s going to need her education. So this is very fundamental. I think the other point is that for places where there is high fertility, if this is the woman’s choice, that’s fine. But in much of the world, women are asking for contraceptive choice. And have we been able to fulfill that? Well, today, that answer is a resounding no. So we’ve got to look at all the factors and not point fingers at the woman as either the reason for high fertility or low fertility, but understand her perspective as to how does she want to organize her life.

Eleni (08:38):

And it’s fascinating because it has been centered around women, I think particularly where there’s low fertility rates, as you say. I mean since the 1950s, and this is what really surprised me, the average number of children women are having has halved from 5 to 2.3. And we’ve even reached a point where wealthier nations are starting to incentivize families or women to have more children because they’re worried about population. But it’s a confluence of issues that women are choosing not to have kids. And then here’s the issue, are we worried about too many people on the planet? Are we worried about population decline?

Dr. Natalia Kanem (09:19):

Well, we in UNFPA are very focused on the point that you’ve got to ask a better question if you’re looking for a solution. So if you’re looking for a solution for climate change, fertility is not going to be the answer. Similarly, I think you raise a very important issue about the variety of total fertility rates in countries. And the question is, is the woman who is having one child or two children, which would be replacement rate, is she making a rational decision and is she going to be incentivized by a bonus if she has a second, third or fourth child?

Well, women are pretty smart and they are looking at how to invest in the children that they already have and they’re also looking at inequality, Eleni, because women are bearing the burden of not only looking after children, but actually over the elderly generation as well. And simultaneously, older people who would love to be involved are not being induced to be able to do the types of work and the types of childcare that they might actually enjoy. So we’ve got to look at the big picture by asking the real question and not by trying to tell women, have this exact amount of children because we want a supposedly ideal population size. It’s not going to work.

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