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India is now the most populous country. Today, let’s discuss how this happened, the numbers behind India’s growth, and discuss the challenges and opportunities for the country in the future!

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  • Populous (adj) – A populous country, area, or place has a lot of people living in it.
    • India is now the world’s most populous country.
  • Demographic (adj) – relating to demography (= the study of populations and the different groups that make them up)                                   
    • There have been monumental social and demographic changes in the country.
  • Estimated (adj) – roughly calculated or approximate.
    • The collection has fetched three times its estimated value at auction.
  • Ageing (adj) – relating to getting older and used to describe a person or thing that is getting old.
    • He restores ageing machinery.
  • Fertility rate (n) – the average number of children that would be born to a female over their lifetime.
    • South Korea has the lowest fertility rate in the world.
  • Geopolitics (n) – the way a country’s size, position, etc. influence its power and its relationships with other countries.
    • These developments are having a major impact on the geopolitics of the region.
  • Talent pool (n) – the suitable, skilled people who are available to be chosen to do a particular type of job.
    • The company has a large talent pool from which to choose a new leader.
  • Workforce (n) – the group of people who work in a company, industry, country, etc.
    • The majority of factories in the region have a workforce of 50 to 100 people.

India is the most populous country in the world! At the end of April, the United Nations reported that India’s population was now larger than China’s and will keep growing over the next months and years. How did this happen? Is it a good thing for India? Or will it cause more problems than opportunities? Let’s take a deeper look at India’s growth in today’s episode.

India Now Has the Largest Population?

At the end of April, the United Nations released a report announcing that India’s population has now reached 1,425,775,850 people. This has matched, and then overtaken, the population of China. The UN began tracking global population statistics in 1950, and since then China had held the top spot as the most populous nation until last month.

India and China are gigantic nations, the only two countries with over a billion people, but have very different demographic futures. While India will keep growing, China has likely already reached its peak (or largest) size and will continue to fall behind India in terms of population.

India becoming the largest country is not exactly a surprise. The development has been predicted for decades, but it has happened more quickly than many experts thought. In fact, since 1950, India’s population has grown by over a billion.

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And India will keep growing. It is estimated India will reach its maximum size in the year 2064 with 1.7 billion people. And right now, on average, there are 86,000 babies born in India every day.

Interestingly, however, the UN estimations are exactly that – estimations. They are based on a variety of publicly available data sources like death rates and birth rates. The exact size of the country’s population is not currently known because India’s census has been delayed.

The official reason for delaying India’s census, which should have taken place in 2021, is the Covid-19 pandemic. Some people have accused the government of deliberately not conducting the census, but there is likely to be more pressure now to finally start it and discover the true size of the country.

In fact, since the last census in 2011, India has grown by more than 200 million people. That is about the population of Brazil. How did this happen? How did India become the most populous country in the world?

How Did India Become the Most Populous Country in the World?

There are two main factors behind India’s rise to becoming the world’s most populous country. One, of course, is India’s impressive birth rate and young population… but perhaps more significant is China’s falling population.

Since records began in 1950, China had continuously been the world’s most populous country. Yet, in 2022, China’s population actually shrank for the first time in modern history. In China, there are now 32 million more men than women, and on average Chinese women only have 1.2 children per person (well below the 2.1 children need for a country’s population grow).

China’s population will continue to shrink. In the next 20 years, China will likely have up to 10% fewer people, and perhaps by the end of the century will drop below 1 billion.

The fall in China’s population is a direct result of the Chinese government’s policies to control the previously rapidly increasing population. Most famously, a one-child policy was introduced in the 1980s. If couples were found to be breaking the rules, they were punished by fines and in some cases forced abortions. They also encouraged people to marry later in life.  

And the policy was successful – China’s population stabilised, and the growth has now stopped. But this has caused problems in China – a rapidly aging society which may struggle to support its people in the future!


At the same time, India has kept growing. When it comes to population growth, the key statistic is fertility rate (meaning the number of children the average woman has in her lifetime). For a population to stay the same, the average fertility rate must be around 2.1 children per woman (and this should be higher for a country to grow).

In the 1960s, India’s fertility rate was 6; in the 1990s it was about 3.5; and today it is around 2. So while the fertility rate is dropping and slowing down, it is significantly higher than China’s current rate. And as India’s population is so young on average, the population will continue to grow even though the fertility rate has dropped below 2.1.

However, the idea that the whole of India is a young and rapidly growing society is not quite accurate. There are 28 states in India, but only 5 have fertility rates over 2.1. Apparently, a third of all population growth in the next decades will come just from the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (Uttar Pradesh already has a population of 235 million).

In the south of India, things are quite different. People are getting older on average and the workforces are shrinking. India is not experiencing a population explosion that was once feared.

India’s Population: Beneficial or Problematic?

Is becoming the world’s most populous country a good thing for India? Or is it going to cause major problems?


Overtaking China as the world’s most populous country presents numerous opportunities for India.

India’s young and educated population is an invaluable asset. With a larger workforce, India can potentially attract more foreign investments, encouraging economic growth and development. Youth brings energy, innovation, and adaptability, making India an attractive destination for global businesses seeking a skilled and dynamic workforce. In other words, India’s population provides a vast pool of global talent.

Another opportunity lies in the potential for increased consumption and market demand. With the largest population, India becomes an attractive market for businesses across industries. More demand can lead to the growth of industries, stimulating job creation and economic prosperity. Increased consumption can drive innovation and productivity, as businesses try to meet the evolving needs and preferences of a larger consumer base.


Having the largest population also has advantages in geopolitics. The nation’s population size, combined with its strategic location, strengthens its position as a regional power in South Asia. India’s growing influence enables it to play a more significant role in shaping regional dynamics and overall security.

Moreover, there is now increasing possibility of a permanent role in the UN Security Council for India. A permanent seat in the Security Council would enable India to actively participate in crucial decision-making processes, ensuring that its interests are well-represented. And as the most populous country, India may have the influence to get this role in the future.

The expanding population also offers opportunities for social and cultural development. With a larger population, India may see the emergence of diverse ideas, perspectives, and experiences. And a larger population can provide a greater talent pool for sports, arts, and other cultural activities, helping India’s participation and success on the global stage.


On the other hand, having the largest population in the world presents some serious issues.

With a growing population, India needs to generate enough employment opportunities. India has a young and educated population with incredible potential, but if there are not enough jobs, millions of people will not be contributing to the economy.

Despite progress in recent years, gender is still an issue in India’s labour market. Only 10% of working-age Indian women currently work – but with less children on average per woman, India needs to make sure these people can enter the workforce.

Internal migration poses another significant challenge. Millions of people within India move around the country, from poor regions and the countryside to the richer cities, in search for better opportunities and jobs. This can strain existing infrastructure and public services, leading to issues such as overcrowding, inadequate housing, and increased pressure on transportation networks.


With a larger population, India may have issues with social welfare programs and distributing resources. Providing access to healthcare, education, and social security to a significant number of people requires a robust and inclusive welfare system.

Environmental concerns also come to the forefront with a larger population. Balancing economic growth with environmental conservation is crucial – but as a developing country still reliant on fossil fuels India may struggle.

Finally, social cohesion and addressing socio-economic disparities become critical in a larger population. With a diverse and growing population, ensuring social harmony and limiting income inequalities is crucial for a sustainable and inclusive society.

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Final Thought

India is now the most populous country in the world. Hopefully after listening to this episode, you now understand a little better how India overtook China in terms of population.

This growth presents both opportunities and challenges for India. On the one hand, being the most populous country gives India a young and educated population, bigger economic possibilities, and geopolitical influence. On the other hand, managing a large population can be expensive and complicated.

What do you think? Is India becoming the world’s most populous country a good thing for the country?

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By Tom Wilkinson

Host and founder of Thinking in English, Tom is committed to providing quality and interesting content to all English learners. Previously a research student at a top Japanese university and with a background in English teaching, political research, and Asian languages, Tom is now working fulltime on bettering Thinking in English!

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