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India to Surpass China as Most Populous Country by Month's End

FILE - People move through a market in Mumbai, India, Nov. 12, 2022.
FILE - People move through a market in Mumbai, India, Nov. 12, 2022.

India will overtake China as the world's most populous country by the end of this month, the United Nations said Monday.

By the end of April, India's population is expected to reach 1.425 billion, which means it will match and then surpass mainland China’s population, the U.N.’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) said.

“China’s population reached its peak size of 1.426 billion in 2022 and has started to fall. Projections indicate that the size of the Chinese population could drop below 1 billion before the end of the century,” the agency said.

The DESA announcement comes after the U.N. Population Fund said last week that India would have 2.9 million more people than China by the middle of 2023.

The announcement has sparked questions about whether India can repeat the economic miracle that took China out of poverty and into the ranks of the world's leading powers.

India is promoting itself as a rising global power as the host of this year's Group of 20 Summit, to be held in New Delhi in September. The G-20 is made up of the world’s major economies.

Demographers say the limits of population data make it impossible to calculate an exact date when India’s population will surpass China’s. It’s possible it may have already done so.

“The precise timing of this crossover isn't known, and it will never be known,” said John Wilmoth, director of the United Nations population division, at a news conference at the U.N. in New York.

India, which last conducted a census in 2011, has not commented on the U.N. estimates.

The timing of when India surpasses China in population will likely be revised once India conducts its next census, Wilmoth said.

China's population peaked in 2022 and has started to fall. The country's elderly population is swelling while its birth rate is plunging, from 1.7 babies per woman in 2017 to 1.2 in 2022, according to U.N. data.

In contrast, India has the world's largest young population, a higher fertility rate and is seeing a consistent decrease in infant mortality. Experts don’t see a need for alarm regarding overpopulation as the country's fertility rate has been steadily falling, from over five births per woman in the 1960s to two in 2022.

India's population is expected to stop growing and stabilize around 2064, The Associated Press reported.

Some information from this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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