India is expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2025. Despite this, the number of extreme poor in India drops by 44 people a minute and is expected to continue to fall sharply over the next two years.
In fact, World Poverty Clock researchers are hopeful that by 2021 fewer than 3 percent of India’s population will live in extreme poverty; a milestone described by some development economists as a ‘watershed’ moment. It is still too many, but it means many Indians are living under better conditions than before.
This progress has come at a time of population growth. Between 2011 – 2018 alone, India’s per capita GDP growth rate was 5.6% per annum, far out-pacing average population growth. The country which inspired ‘population bomb’ hysteria in the 1970’s is once again proving it wrong.
While India’s large working age population is increasingly seen as an opportunity for the country to continue to boost its economy through tech start ups and other such ventures, there is also increasing recognition by experts that India’s population growth rate may be overestimated by existing models. This is because they do not account for regional diversity and differences in the levels of education among the Indian people, which in turn affect future fertility.
Wolfgang Lutz, the World Population programme director at International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria comments:
“India is an extremely heterogeneous sub-continent. Simply because it is one nation, unlike composite Europe, it should not be treated as a uniform entity … The forecasts for India over the coming decades strongly depend on which sources of heterogeneity are explicitly included in the model,”
Stratification by education, states, or residence can result in population projections that span a huge range from 1.6 to 3.1 billion.
In fact, all population predictions vary wildly depending on numerous factors and how they are taken into account. Hence, they can not necessarily be presumed accurate and should be looked in to carefully. For now, let's celebrate the fact that more and more Indians are coming out of poverty.