In his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested that explosive population growth could be a hindrance to India’s efforts in lifting people out of poverty. He suggested that if this trend is not checked, welfare spending gains may be nullified. The term ‘population explosion’, however, must be unpacked in order to understand nuances and trends and specify policy prescriptions.
We look at UN’s World Population Prospects data to see how India’s population projections look like till the year 2100. We group the data in two- that of working age population (20-59) and that of non-working age population(0-19 & 60+). We calculate the working age to non-working age population ratio, as shown in figure 1, and find that the ratio is more than 1 from 2005 and only falls below 1 in 2085. This suggests that India’s public policy challenge in the future will be skilling, rather than focussing on means to control the population.
Further, we also see a sharp decline in projections of children below the age of 5 years as shown in Figure 2. This is in line with dropping fertility rates in India which at the moment are thought to be equal to the replacement rate of 2.1(the population is on the cusp of not growing). Further, the Economic Survey also noted a sharp decline in fertility rates in the age group of 0-19. It suggested looking at the Labour Force Participation between 2021-2041 to estimate the trends in the working-age population. This corroborates the view that controlling population may not be necessary, and India should focus on skilling instead.